MEMPHIS, Tennessee — A new treatment center in the Mid-South is helping to keep patients with COVID-19, that are considered high-risk, from becoming very sick and ending up in the ICU.
Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown Hospital opened what's called a monoclonal antibody infusion center last month.
Monoclonal antibodies are lab-made proteins that mimic the immune system to fight off viruses and are said to help people recover much faster. It was also one of the treatments President Donald Trump received after testing positive with COVID-19.
"This is something we can offer up front to hopefully curtail the progression of the disease and at least decrease the severity," Dr. Cassandra Howard, Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown's Chief Medical Officer, said.
The treatment's goal is to try and catch people early on with COVID-19 that have mild to moderate symptoms to prevent the virus from worsening and needing to be hospitalized.
“This is something purposeful in the medical community that we have as therapy that we can offer to our patients, early on, well before you’re to the point of being hospitalized, and then being sick enough for other therapies," Dr. Howard said said.
Early studies suggest that this treatment can reduce COVID-19 hospitalizations by up to 70% if done early enough.
The infusion center was opened in Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown's Minor Medical Center at Hacks Cross. They can treat up to 28 COVID-19 positive patients a day.
Dr. Howard explains it's a simple process.
It’s a one dose infusion that infuses over 60 minutes," she said. "We watch the patient for 60 minutes afterwards and then they’re done. There’s no follow up doses.”
Due to limited supply, the FDA opened up the treatment only for people that are at a high-risk such as people over the age of 65 or that live with health conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease or chronic kidney disease.
Since opening last month, the center has done nearly 400 infusions.
The treatment is free but it does require a doctor or physician's referral.
“To have a process to where we can we have an infusion center for COVID positive patients and specifically target and serve that high-risk population, I think it’s very valuable and beneficial," Dr. Howard said.
The treatment is most effective if done within the first ten days of symptoms.