UPMC: Monoclonal Antibody Treatment Reduces Risk Of Hospitalizations, Deaths In COVID-19 Patients By 70%

By: KDKA-TV News Staff

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — UPMC announced Friday that they are making significant headway with a developing COVID-19 treatment: monoclonal antibodies.

UPMC said that the initial analysis among their patients who have undergone or are undergoing this treatment has pointed to the treatment reducing the risk of hospitalization and death by around 70% in COVID-19 patients who are at-risk populations.

“A one-time monoclonal antibody treatment has helped keep our patients with COVID-19 out of the hospital,” said Erin McCreary, Pharm.D., an infectious diseases pharmacist at UPMC and clinical assistant professor in Pitt’s School of Medicine. “If given early to high-risk patients, this treatment works to prevent COVID-19-related complications. We look forward to research with next-generation monoclonal antibodies and hope to continue to find safe and effective treatments for our patients.”

They said high-risk populations include people of “advanced age, who are obese or those with conditions such as diabetes or lung disease.”

UPMC said that it has provided more than 1,000 eligible patients with the treatment and reported that the strongest positive effects were observed among older patients.

UPMC also said that there were very few adverse reactions to the treatment and that any reactions were mild.

At this time, this treatment is only available for:

  • patients who are 65 and older

  • patients who are 55 and older with certain medical conditions (i.e. diabetes, chronic kidney disease)

  • patients who have a body mass index (BMI) of at least 35

  • patients ages 12-17 who have co-morbidity (i.e. sickle cell disease, severe respiratory illnesses) 

The purpose of monoclonal antibodies is to find and block the COVID-19 virus from replicating in a patient’s body. It is given through a one-time IV infusion.

UPMC said that the treatment is most effective when given as early as possible after a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. Ideally, the treatment should be applied within the first 10 days of contracting the virus and is even more effective when applied within the first four days of a positive diagnosis.

The FDA allowed emergency use authorization for this antibody treatment back in late 2020, according to UPMC.

UPMC is offering this treatment at 16 sites in Pennsylvania and New York and is able to provide this treatment to homebound individuals on an as-needed basis.

“This is the treatment that was given to former President Trump shortly after his COVID-19 diagnosis,” said UPMC’s Dr. Graham Snyder.

UPMC said it is publishing its findings and analysis of the treatment in medRxiv, a preprint medical journal.

This treatment has not been widely used by other medical facilities, according to UPMC, and UPMC said they are sharing this data and analysis to raise awareness about the treatment.

“This lower use surprised us, and we’re still debating why demand was less than expected,” said Donald M. Yealy, M.D., UPMC chief medical officer and professor and chair of Pitt’s Department of Emergency Medicine. “It likely had to do with so few health care providers investing in the infrastructure, staff and processes needed to administer the drug. This created lower awareness among both patients and clinicians about the life-saving benefits of monoclonal antibodies.”

This announcement comes as Allegheny County is starting to experience a COVID-19 spike in the area.

Stay with KDKA as we follow this developing story.