BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – As the death toll from COVID continues to rise in Louisiana, Baton Rouge General is setting up an infusion center to offer more people monoclonal antibodies treatments.
The monoclonal antibodies have been around for some time now but due to short staffing, there has been a lag in getting the treatments to patients. The Louisiana Department of Health is now sending more staff to Baton Rouge General so they can give upwards of 50 infusions a day.
A special facility inside the Center for Health will allow for COVID-positive patients to come in for their infusions. Doctors said they have plenty of supplies, but having nurses available has been a challenge.
The monoclonal antibodies are designed to help reduce the severity of the virus for those most at risk. It has proven to be 85% effective in reducing symptoms. It is recommended that people get the infusion within 7-10 days of diagnosis since it has been found on the 9th or 10th day is when a COVID patient often takes a turn for the worse. The infusion needs to be given before oxygen is needed to be given.
The antibodies are not like previous treatments where people donate their plasma. That treatment was found not to be as effective. The monoclonal antibodies are synthetic and are man-made.
“It is a combination of two antibodies made in a laboratory,” Baton Rouge General Medical Center Chief of Staff Dr. Louis Minsky said. “They’re made in high doses so that they may be infused into an individual with COVID. By giving these antibodies infused directly into the bloodstream it allows the antibodies to neutralize the virus.”
The treatments are recommended for people over 65, those who have underlying conditions, or if a doctor thinks a patient may have a chance of getting really sick from COVID. People are encouraged to ask their doctors about the treatment to see if they could get the infusion.
“It’s a prediction but we know there are patients who develop the flu and they get sicker than most others. That may be someone a physician would handpick specifically to get the infusion,” Dr. Minsky said.
The infusions have mainly been given to people who are not vaccinated since the vaccine does reduce the severity of symptoms for most people. Doctors can recommend vaccinated people get the treatment if they feel a patient is at high risk.
The treatment is currently under emergency use. Dr. Minsky said it is safe and there is a low risk of it causing an allergic reaction. But there have not been many studies on how it affects pregnant women.
He said this is no cure but it can help some of the most vulnerable. He emphasizes the best preventative measure is to get vaccinated.
“None of the monoclonal antibodies are meant to be preventive or prophylactic. They are used for acutely ill only,” Dr. Minksy said. “It is still very important as a population, as a community, as a state that we get our immunizations. Immunizations are the only way to benefit as a defense mechanism so we decrease the acute cases or the illnesses that occur.”
The monoclonal antibody treatment center is anticipated to begin taking in patients at the end of the week.