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North Carolina has limited doses of monoclonal antibodies for COVID patients

A cancer survivor who is vaccinated is now fighting a breakthrough COVID case. The drug that could help her is in short supply, and she likely won't get it.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — North Carolina is dealing with a critical shortage. The product is in high demand, and unfortunately, the federal government is not able to supply enough to keep up with that demand. The much-needed resource is monoclonal antibody medicine.

“Over the last several weeks, we have seen a massive increase in the total number of (COVID-19) cases in our community,” Dr. Brent McQuaid with Cone Health said.

Read: Hospitals plead for public to get vaccinated amid stark COVID patient numbers

The COVID-19 lead physician at Cone Health believes this latest variant of COVID-19 - omicron - is just as dangerous. He says the increasing number of patients is a tidal wave that isn't slowing down. 

“I can tell you as a health care provider and a leader, the concern is as high or higher than it’s ever been,” Dr. McQuaid said. 

On New Year’s Eve, Cone Health received 643 referrals for patients in need of the antibody, the facility is given seven doses a day by the state.

“I hate that. I wish we did (have more),” Dr. McQuaid said.

One of the recent referrals is for Deborah Brady, the cancer survivor who was diagnosed with COVID last Wednesday. Brady also suffers from heart problems, COPD, and one of her lungs was partially removed. Her pulmonologist suggested she get the antibody to help battle COVID-19.

“This has just been horrific on me. It’s been terrible,” Brady said.

The 70-year-old called her primary care physician to see if he could help in the process, but he couldn’t. Cone Health has a long waiting list of patients. The hospital uses a sophisticated algorithm to determine which patients get the antibody treatment.

“Unfortunately, with this omicron wave and the massive number of cases, we do not have the resources to treat everyone who needs (the antibody-drug),” Dr. McQuaid said.

Some of the factors that determine who is prioritized for the antibody are unvaccinated patients, the elderly, immune-compromised, and patients with medical conditions.

Brady meets almost all the categories, but unlike so many that are also in need, Brady is vaccinated.

“They may say I’m ahead of game, but I (don’t) feel like it right now,” Brady said.

Like many people waiting for a drug that will most likely not be available to her, Brady is frustrated with the process. She tells WFMY News 2 she contacted Cone Health about the antibody on Friday after her pulmonologist sent in the request. Brady said she was told someone would contact her in 48 hours, but she hasn't heard back. 

WFMY News 2 reached out to the North Carolina State Health Department to learn more about the number of doses the federal government provides. A spokesperson told us it received 978 patient courses of sotrovimab that were distributed to enrolled administration sites across the state.

Brady is still hoping to get a call but knows her time on the list is most likely running out. The drug is most effective if used within seven days of being diagnosed. Doctors would most likely administer it to someone recently diagnosed rather than give it to someone outside the seven-day window.