Doctors, hospitals say life-saving COVID treatment in short supply due to ineffectiveness against new variant

Doctors, hospitals say life-saving COVID treatment in short supply due to ineffectiveness against new variant
Published: Dec. 29, 2021 at 10:36 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The life-saving monoclonal antibody treatment is now in short supply.

It comes as state health leaders sound the alarm about a fifth wave of COVID-19.

Health experts say it’s not so much that there’s a shortage of monoclonals but more so that the supply that did exist isn’t effective against this new variant.

“Omicron has thrown a pretty horrendous curveball in the sense that our most commonly available monoclonals don’t work against Omicron,” State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs said.

Monoclonal antibody treatment, which doctors say helped keep many people out of the hospital during the Delta surge, comes in more than one form.

There’s the Regeneron product, Eli Lilly’s product, and Sotrovimab. All three are in limited supply, and Sotrovimab is the only one that’s effective against the Omicron variant.

“We absolutely have had one of the really big weapons against this virus really taken from us,” Dr. Steve Threlkeld said.

Threlkeld works as Baptist Memorial Health Care’s medical director for infectious disease. He said the limited access to the treatment is problematic for those who could really benefit from receiving it.

“There are people who are at higher risk of more severe disease, hospitalizations, and deaths, and we have to say, ‘Sorry, we don’t really have anything to offer very easily right now,” he said.

UMMC said they’re plagued with the same issue.

“We have a low supply of mAB treatments, and when we get a new supply, including the treatment that works on COVID-19′s Omicron variant, we expect to receive a limited amount.”

St. Dominic said they’re seeing limited supply as well.

“Demand for both COVID testing and treatments has increased significantly in recent weeks. So far, we have been able to meet the demand for treatment of individuals with minimum criteria. If the trends continue, we will likely have to (further) prioritize treatments for those at greatest risk of severe illness from COVID-19. The environment is rapidly changing as the Omicron variant becomes more common here in Mississippi, and we are adjusting antibody treatment to utilize those more effective with this variant.”

Dr. Threlkeld said there should be more Sotrovimab around the second week of January. However, he said they didn’t have a big market share to begin with, so even with ramped up production, supply will likely be limited.

“It won’t be the kind of thing that a healthy 55-year-old would get even though it might have qualified,” he said. “It probably will be limited to people who have more of a propensity toward having that severe disease.”

Threlkeld said the vaccine is especially important given the short supply of monoclonals and the new variant.

“Omicron is just infecting so many people that - even though it may be intrinsically a little less deadly - if you get something that’s only half as deadly, but there’s twice as much of it, those things can kind of cancel out,” he said.

He also said a new oral drug is expected to come out in days that’s proved effective in reducing severe illness. The only downside is that it doesn’t interact well with other medications.

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