GREENSBORO, N.C. — To date, Cone Health has administered monoclonal antibodies to more than 1,100 patients. The hospital system found that infusions have proven to reduce hospital stays and lower emergency room visits for vulnerable people who've already contracted COVID-19.
Although COVID-19 patients are no longer hospitalized at Cone Health's Green Valley campus, it is still home to the infusion clinic, and will be indefinitely.
"It reduces the chances of that patient being hospitalized by about 50 to 70 percent," said Dr. Brent McQuaid, Chief Medical Officer of Cone Green Valley. "It's a huge reduction."
Scientists developed these antibodies after carefully looking at the ones produced by people who'd recovered from COVID-19. Antibodies are proteins produced by our immune systems to fight off specific bacteria and viruses.
"They are very specific. They know exactly what they are binding to," said Dr. McQuaid.
Dr. McQuaid says many in the medical community were skeptical of how well monoclonal antibodies would work, given they hadn't worked for hospitalized patients.
"Once COVID gets in your body and replicates, it causes a lot of inflammation and inflammatory damage," he said. "That means that organs like your lungs get really sick. And you can get to a point where you’re so sick, your lungs are so injured, that these medicines can’t help the situation."
But for older patients with underlying conditions who currently qualify for the drug, but not yet hospitalized, the therapy treatment proved exceedingly helpful.
"It's not a miracle and it's not perfect," McQuaid said. "However, there are many, many cases of folks who received the infusion, and then have significant improvement right away.
"It's important to mention that the manufacturer, the FDA and our own experience all strongly suggest that the sooner you can get this medicine to people in the course of the illness the better. The message should be that if you think you have COVID, you need to go get tested right away so that you can be treated with this sooner rather than later."