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Health Watch: Fairbanks Foundation Health Partners expands monoclonal antibody treatment categories

Published: Aug. 25, 2021 at 3:41 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Fairbanks Foundation Health Partners has recently expanded its categories for who qualifies for COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatment.

According to Dr. Claire Stoltz, Medical Director for Tanana Valley Clinic Internal Medicine and Family Medicine, monoclonal antibody treatment is one of the few tools used to help treat those afflicted with COVID-19. “Monoclonal antibodies basically give your immune response a leg up - the immune response your body is naturally going to make in an artificial form. This is why it’s important to get it as soon after exposure or as soon after developing symptoms as possible, because it’s going to give your body that initial boost until your own immune response takes over. There’s really limited treatments for COVID-19, so this is one of the few tools we have - and as I said, the sooner that it’s provided, the better the response is going to be.”

The treatment is offered at the Fairbanks Memorial hospital - and while it operates under an Emergency Use Authorization or EUA, Dr. Stoltz says it has shown to be effective in helping treat COVID-19. “The goal is to reduce symptom severity and hospitalization, and the goal initially was to target the people who were at higher risk. Now that we have more data available on it - it’s still available under a EUA so it hasn’t gone through formal FDA approval - but like I said we’ve been using it for many months at this point, really well tolerated by the vast majority of patients. Initially we limited it to those 65 and older with chronic conditions that increase your risk, and or a BMI of greater than 30.”

Recently, the categories of those who qualify for monoclonal antibody treatment has expanded to include a wider selection of individuals according to Dr. Stoltz. “They’ve now expanded it to anybody with a BMI greater than 25, so anyone who falls into the overweight category... anyone 65 or older, anyone in an assisted living facility, and anyone with chronic medical conditions that would put them at higher risk similar to our original access. So that includes chronic kidney disease, diabetes, neurodegenerative disorders, and anyone on immunosuppression who may not mount their own quite as well.”

While it is no substitute for a COVID-19 vaccination, Dr. Stoltz explained that there is treatment available for those have yet to display symptoms. “There’s another category now too, and that includes post-exposure prophylaxis. This is for the people who aren’t yet sick, but have had a reasonable exposure or are at a high risk of disease. These are for people who either have not been immunized, or the people who have been immunized but are going to have that increased risk of severe disease, or live in an assisted living facility where they can’t move away from somebody who has been sick.”

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