Health

‘Post’ the vaccine, the cost is 100 times more for the drug to treat Covid-19


AmericaMany patients with Covid-19 because they refused to receive vaccines, have cost treatment with monoclonal antibodies 100 times higher and made the supply scarce.

Lanson Jones, a tennis player in Houston, never thought she would get Covid-19. Unaffected by the pandemic, he refused to receive the vaccine because he thought it was not good for health.

But after contracting the virus, he lost faith in his own immunity. Congested nose, loss of appetite, Jones began looking for any form of treatment to overcome the nightmare.

He looked to the method of monoclonal antibodies, a long-standing experimental drug similar to vaccines, for people who have been infected. At Houston Methodist Hospital this month, the 65-year-old became one of more than a million patients in the US who have received antibody transfusions since the pandemic began.

Americans who were skeptical about vaccines showed enthusiasm for the therapy, patiently administering long-term infusions, after rejecting vaccinations that cost 100 times less. This surprised the doctor. Prescriptions exploded rapidly over the summer, to more than 168,000 doses per week by the end of August, up from 27,000 in July. The Joe Biden administration even warned states because the national supply was dwindling.

In the midst of a storm of fake news from anti-vaccination groups, monoclonal antibodies have become the rare Covid-19 drug that is widely accepted. It was promoted by both doctors and TV hosts, but over-reliance on antibody therapy caused the death toll to soar, to more than 2,000 a day.

“People you love, trust, don’t say anything negative about it (antibody therapy.) While vaccines are all negative about side effects and rapid development,” he said. Mr. Jones said.

Increasing vaccination rates will reduce the need for antibody treatment, which is expensive ($2,100 a dose) in the first place, the scientists say. The infusion took about an hour and a half, including follow-up time. Patients also need a nurse on duty, while the medical team has been under a lot of pressure.

“It’s a resource bottleneck. Some $20 vaccines can prevent almost anything,” said Dr. Christian Ramers, an infectious disease specialist and chief of population health at the San Diego Center for Family Health. like all this”. He said promoting antibody measures while rejecting vaccines “is like investing in car insurance without installing brakes”.

However, monoclonal antibodies are still a useful measure for people who already have Covid-19. The drug was used on former President Donald Trump when he contracted the virus late last year. The antibody developed by Regeneron and Eli Lilly has been shown to reduce symptoms and the risk of hospitalization by 70%. Patients only need one infusion, the drug contains copies of antibodies against nCoV created in the laboratory, similar to natural human immunity.

Neither the doctor nor the patient noticed this method last winter. But many hospitals and medical centers have now increased service provision, turning dental rooms and mobile treatment areas into infusion centers. In states like Texas, non-emergency surgeries are postponed, making room and human resources for Covid-19 patients infused with antibodies.

One factor driving patient demand, including those who don’t believe in vaccines, is word of mouth stories about miraculous recovery after treatment.

“The patient said, ‘I have Covid-19, I want this treatment, I’ve been told by friends and family.’ Now everything goes viral,” said Jennifer Berry, Houston’s director of nursing. Methodist, said.

Here, nurses performed nearly 1,100 treatments across eight sites in the first week of September, more than double that of last winter. The hospital reduced the average time between medication orders and infusions from three days to two days this month, helping patients better fight infections. Due to overcrowding of critically ill patients, a hospital had to move the monoclonal antibody transfusion room to a shopping center.

Patient received monoclonal antibody infusion at Houston Methodist, September 2021. Photo: NY Times

Even so, many people still cannot access treatment. Due to staffing and location requirements, therapy is not available in some areas, such as rural areas, where there is a shortage of specialized clinics.

According to Dr. Ramers, in San Diego, some large hospitals have decided not to use monoclonal antibodies because of logistical complications. Wealthy, well-insured patients hunted for therapy at publicly funded clinics. Some of the nurses hired by Dr. Ramers to oversee antibody treatment have left their jobs to move into higher-paid positions in the overcrowded ICU.

Of the 2.4 million doses of monoclonal antibodies distributed nationally, at least 1.1 million have been administered. It is difficult to determine the amount of medicine left on the shelf because of incomplete reporting. But federal supplies have become increasingly scarce due to surging demand from some southern states, where vaccination rates are low.

Hospitals in North Carolina need about 15,000 doses of antibodies a week, according to the health agency, more than double the amount allocated by the federal government. Florida clinics are short of about 41,000 doses in the latest batch.

Many doctors warn that antibody therapy alone, while effective, cannot keep up with the new outbreak. While vaccines protect countless people, an infusion can only treat one patient. Therapy must be administered within 10 days of symptoms; they are useless in most hospitalized patients. Receiving antibodies once also no longer works if a person re-infected with nCoV.

Thuc Linh (Follow NY Times)

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