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Health Watch: Fairbanks prepared to face nationwide shortage of monoclonal antibody treatments

Published: Sep. 29, 2021 at 5:06 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - As the United States faces a shortage of monoclonal antibody treatment, Foundation Health Partners (FHP) in Fairbanks is prepared to ensure those most in need of treatment, receive it.

According to Dr. Claire Stoltz, Medical Director for the Tanana Valley Clinic Internal Medicine and Family Medicine, the rise in COVID-19 cases across the United States is the primary cause for the shortage.

“Until recently, we’ve had really full access to monoclonal antibody treatments,” Dr. Stoltz explained, ”But as our nation’s numbers have gone up of people who are COVID positive, the access for that medication has decreased or is needing to be spread among many more people. So at this point, we have less resources than we used to have for our population, and so we’re kind of having to think creatively in terms of how we use that within the Fairbanks community.”

Dr. Stoltz continued, “We do have to be careful on who we use it. We want to use it for the people who are going to be most likely to get the sickest from COVID-19. Again, this is a problem of numbers. As our community numbers go up, while we would like to be able to use it for everybody who is eligible under the EUA (Emergency Use Authorization), we do have to be judicious to save it for the people who are going to need it the most.”

Currently there is no confirmed timeline on when the shortage will end, but Dr. Stoltz emphasized that treatment will continue for those who are most vulnerable and in need of monoclonal antibody treatment.

“The vast majority of patients in our hospital are those who are not vaccinated,” Dr. Stoltz elaborated. “So that’s our primary target is those who are not vaccinated. People who are vaccinated still get COVID, but they tend to be less ill. So we look at the categories of people who are vaccinated and [assess] those who are most likely to be sick - the immunosuppressed and those over 65. In terms of those who are unvaccinated, anyone who is overweight, has a chronic condition such as a heart condition or a lung condition, or any condition that puts them at a higher risk to disease should certainly get monoclonal antibodies. It’s a time sensitive treatment - so the earlier it’s given, the better.”

And despite the shortage, FHP has been able to increase monoclonal antibody treatment capacity.

“Right now, the southern states kind of bought up most of the available amount within the nation, and so now it’s being distributed in a way that to try and target greater population bases,” Dr. Stoltz explained. “But as more medication is made, and it shows up on our door... we are going on a day by day basis, looking at what we have available, how many people we can serve every day. We’ve vastly increased our daily infusions. At one point we were doing 10 or 11 a day, and [now] on average we’re doing 28 to 30. So we’re still providing more care even than we were before, but it isn’t as much as we hope based on our numbers in our community.”

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