Monoclonal Antibodies May Show Huge Promise in Protecting Those Most At-risk for Developing Severe COVID-19
(BRONX, NY)— Last December, 70-year-old Bronx resident Irma Vega got COVID-19. Like 52 percent of people living in the Bronx, Vega had multiple chronic conditions, meaning her case of COVID-19 could easily become life-threatening. After her positive test, she arrived at Montefiore Medical Center to begin monoclonal antibody treatment.
Monoclonal antibodies are created in a lab and function like naturally occurring antibodies, fighting infections before they spread. Studies show that when monoclonal antibodies are given intravenously to high-risk people diagnosed early with COVID-19, it may prevent them from experiencing severe symptoms that lead to hospitalizations.
“COVID-19 is a horrible illness, but I trusted the doctors and nurses,” said Vega. “I started monoclonal antibodies and my symptoms never got worse. I never needed to go to the hospital.”
Today more than 470 patients like Vega have received treatment from Montefiore’s monoclonal antibody program; the treatment is promising as at least 90 percent of those who received treatment did not require hospitalization.
“Longstanding inequities and chronic disease have led to high COVID-19 infection rates and significant risk of death in our borough,” said Dr. Priya Nori, director of the Antibiotic Stewardship Program, an infectious disease specialist at Montefiore Health System, and associate professor of medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “Now Bronx residents have a safe, and promising treatment that may stop COVID-19 in its tracks and could prevent them from developing severe illness or requiring hospitalization.”
In December, Dr. Nori’s team began treating patients in Montefiore’s Bronx emergency departments with monoclonal antibodies which are now authorized by the Food and Drug Administration. Since then, Montefiore opened an infusion clinic – now the main location for this therapy – and is partnering with local nursing homes to treat their residents.
People who qualify for monoclonal antibodies have a high-risk of severe COVID-19, including people aged 65 or older, and illnesses like chronic kidney disease, diabetes, hypertension, coronary artery disease, obesity and COPD. People who are immunocompromised due to diseases such as cancer, lupus or sickle cell anemia, or organ transplant recipients, are also candidates for treatment. Pregnant women and high-risk patients under age 21 may also qualify.
The monoclonal antibody treatment is given using IV therapy, administered through a vein in the arm, for about an hour. Patients are evaluated by a nurse practitioner and then monitored for any allergic reactions, which are extremely rare. The appointment takes about three hours to complete; afterward patients receive a follow-up phone visit. Less than two weeks later, a telehealth appointment is completed with an infectious disease doctor who reviews recovery and symptoms.
“Patients come in with fear of COVID-19 and leave with hope because of this treatment,” said Susan Sakalian, Oncology Certified Nurse at Montefiore Medical Center. “It is a huge step forward from where we were in March 2020. The infusions could keep people from needing emergency care, and that’s an invaluable resource for our patients and their families.”
For more information about the monoclonal antibodies treatment, please visit covid19.montefiore.org/monoclonal-antibody-therapy-montefiore#main-content.
About Montefiore Health System
Montefiore Health System is one of New York’s premier academic health systems and is a recognized leader in providing exceptional quality and personalized, accountable care to approximately three million people in communities across the Bronx, Westchester and the Hudson Valley. It is comprised of 10 hospitals, including the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, Burke Rehabilitation Hospital and more than 200 outpatient ambulatory care sites. The advanced clinical and translational research at its medical school, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, directly informs patient care and improves outcomes. From the Montefiore-Einstein Centers of Excellence in cancer, cardiology and vascular care, pediatrics, and transplantation, to its preeminent school-based health program, Montefiore is a fully integrated healthcare delivery system providing coordinated, comprehensive care to patients and their families. For more information please visit www.montefiore.org. Follow us on Twitter and view us on Facebook and YouTube.
About Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Albert Einstein College of Medicine is one of the nation’s premier centers for research, medical education and clinical investigation. During the 2020-21 academic year, Einstein is home to 721 M.D. students, 178 Ph.D. students, 109 students in the combined M.D./Ph.D. program, and 265 postdoctoral research fellows. The College of Medicine has more than 1,900 full-time faculty members located on the main campus and at its clinical affiliates. In 2020, Einstein received more than $197 million in awards from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This includes the funding of major research centers at Einstein in aging, intellectual development disorders, diabetes, cancer, clinical and translational research, liver disease, and AIDS. Other areas where the College of Medicine is concentrating its efforts include developmental brain research, neuroscience, cardiac disease, and initiatives to reduce and eliminate ethnic and racial health disparities. Its partnership with Montefiore, the University Hospital and academic medical center for Einstein, advances clinical and translational research to accelerate the pace at which new discoveries become the treatments and therapies that benefit patients. Einstein runs one of the largest residency and fellowship training programs in the medical and dental professions in the United States through Montefiore and an affiliation network involving hospitals and medical centers in the Bronx, Brooklyn and on Long Island. For more information, please visit www.einstein.yu.edu, read our blog, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and view us on YouTube.