Monoclonal antibody or antiviral therapy

 

A new sub variant of Omicron, a variant of COVID-19 called BA.2, is making its way across the United States. Cases in Colorado are beginning to rise slightly. The good news is there are treatments for this variant that can be obtained for free at local pharmacies across the state.

UCHealth is encouraging people at risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 to test as soon as they detect symptoms. There are treatments available at your local pharmacies that can prevent severe illness, but they need to be taken with 5 days of when you first have symptoms. In some pharmacies you can test and get treatment all in the same visit.

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Who should be considered for monoclonal antibody or antiviral therapy?

This treatment is for people who have recently been diagnosed with COVID-19, have mild symptoms, and are at high risk for getting very sick.

People at risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 include:

  • People who are age 65 or older.
  • People who are overweight (with a BMI of 26 or greater).
  • Pregnant people.
  • People with a weakened immune system (immunocompromised).
  • People with certain conditions, such as: cancer; kidney, liver, lung or sickle cell disease; dementia; diabetes; Down syndrome; heart conditions; HIV infection; certain mental health conditions; current or former smoker; organ transplant recipient; stroke; substance use disorder; tuberculosis.

People who are not in one of the high-risk groups will not be considered under the FDA guidance at this time.

If you have questions, please call 720.462.2255.

  • Monday through Friday: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Saturday and Sunday: 8 a.m. to noon

How to get treatment at UCHealth

What is a monoclonal antibody?

Antibodies are proteins that exist in our bodies as part of our immune system to recognize and defend against harmful viruses and bacteria.

Monoclonal antibodies are made in a laboratory and designed to target a specific virus or bacteria.

How do monoclonal antibodies work against COVID-19?

Monoclonal antibodies work against COVID-19 by attaching to the virus to block it from entering human cells.

The monoclonal antibody protein also “marks” the virus. This tells the immune system to break the virus down and clear it from the body.

How is monoclonal antibody or antiviral treatment done?

provider explaining a treatment

At this time, UCHealth uses Bebtelovimab, which is available by FDA Emergency Use Authorization.

Treatment with COVID-19 monoclonal antibodies is done through a one-time intravenous (IV) infusion.

Another option for COVID-19 therapy is an antiviral called Remdesivir. Remdesivir is approved by the FDA and helps reduce the effects of COVID-19. Remdesivir is given by an intravenous (IV) infusion over three (3) consecutive days.

Benefits and risks of monoclonal antibody or antiviral therapy

Benefits of monoclonal antibody or antiviral therapy

For people at high risk of getting very sick from COVID-19, monoclonal antibody or antiviral therapy, given early, can greatly reduce the chance of getting COVID-19 and prevent the disease from becoming severe. It also reduces the chance of needing to be in the hospital. The treatment can also shorten how long COVID-19 symptoms last.

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Possible side effects

Most people handle monoclonal antibody or antiviral therapy very well. Some people may have infusion-related side effects, such as nausea and dizziness. These only last a short time and go away on their own. As with any medicine, there is the chance for mild or more severe allergic reactions. These are not common.

How to get monoclonal antibody or antiviral therapy at UCHealth

Option 1: Schedule an appointment for treatment:

If you have recently been diagnosed with COVID-19, have mild symptoms, and are at high risk for getting very sick, please schedule an appointment for treatment as soon as possible.

To schedule your treatment, please use My Health Connection, UCHealth’s online patient portal, to see available appointments. You do not need to be a UCHealth patient.

Option 2: Contact your primary care provider:

If you tested positive for COVID-19 and need to discuss if monoclonal antibody or antiviral therapy is right for you, please call your UCHealth primary care provider as soon as possible.

A UCHealth provider will determine if you qualify for treatment. If your provider decides you qualify, they will submit an order. Someone will reach out to you to schedule the therapy prescribed by your provider.

UCHealth currently has infusion clinics in the northern, central and southern regions of Colorado. Treatment is done through intravenous (IV) infusion.

Option 3: UCHealth Virtual Urgent Care and Urgent Care:

If you do not have a UCHealth primary care provider, you can schedule a visit with UCHealth Virtual Urgent Care or at a UCHealth Urgent Care clinic.

A UCHealth provider will determine if you qualify for treatment. A visit with a UCHealth provider is required in order to determine if you qualify for monoclonal antibody or antiviral therapy. Please note that any UCHealth Urgent Care location can evaluate you in order to determine if you qualify. If a provider decides you qualify, they can submit an order. Once an order is submitted, the scheduling team will review patient risk and monoclonal antibody or antiviral medicine availability. If criteria are met and medicine is available, an appointment for treatment will be scheduled.

Frequently asked questions

People at risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 include:

  • People who are age 65 or older.
  • People who are overweight (with a BMI of 26 or greater).
  • Pregnant people.
  • People with a weakened immune system (immunocompromised).
  • People with certain conditions, such as: cancer; kidney, liver, lung or sickle cell disease; dementia; diabetes; down syndrome; heart conditions; HIV infection; certain mental health conditions; current or former smoker; organ transplant recipient; stroke; substance use disorder; tuberculosis.

For more information, see the CDC guidelines for those at high risk.

Increasing data from clinical trials show that when used early in the course of COVID-19, monoclonal antibodies can reduce the need to be admitted to the hospital and decrease the risk of death. For the greatest effect, treatment should be given as soon as possible, ideally within the first week after the start of symptoms.

Under the FDA Emergency Use Authorization, COVID-19 monoclonal antibodies can be used in people who are early in their disease course, not hospitalized for COVID-19, and are at high risk for getting very sick.

Healing from COVID-19 is different for each patient. This is true even for patients who have been given monoclonal antibody therapy. Some symptoms will improve soon after the treatment. The main job of the antibodies is to keep the infection from getting worse. The goal is to avoid the most serious problems. These include being admitted to the hospital and death. If symptoms do get worse after having monoclonal antibody therapy, please get medical help.

For relief of minor symptoms such as a headache or body aches, over-the-counter medicines can be taken (such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen).

The effect of the treatment will last around 90 days. This is based on the normal amount of time that these antibodies stay active in the body. Monoclonal antibody therapy may give you some protection from getting sick again from COVID-19 during those 90 days. However, wearing a mask in public places is still important if you have a weakened immune system or if you are at increased risk for getting very sick.

Monoclonal antibodies have been shown to be safe in clinical trials, with a rate of adverse reactions that was not different from placebo. Allergic reactions are possible but are rare.

COVID-19 monoclonal antibodies target the SARS-CoV-2 virus itself and not human cells, and have not been shown to cause cancer.

Monoclonal antibodies are carefully designed to recognize a single target (for example, a specific part of a specific virus). Sometimes two monoclonal antibodies, targeting different parts of a virus, are given in combination to increase the effectiveness of the treatment; these combinations are called monoclonal antibody cocktails.

Monoclonal antibodies are designed to target a very specific part of a virus or bacterium, and are carefully selected and tested for effectiveness.

Polyclonal antibodies are a mixture of many different antibodies—some good, and some not so good—that are produced as part of the body’s response to a foreign substance. Convalescent plasma (plasma that is taken from someone who has recovered from an infection) is an example of a substance that contains polyclonal antibodies.

Monoclonal antibodies are not considered immunotherapy, because they do not change the body’s own immune response to the virus. Rather, monoclonal antibodies provide passive immunity, by providing antibodies that the body has not yet had a chance to generate on its own. This can be especially important for people whose bodies have difficulty making antibodies, or where a disease progresses too quickly for the body to make antibodies fast enough to stop it.

Other types of monoclonal antibodies that have already been in use for many years include those for treating hepatitis B and rabies exposures.

Most monoclonal antibodies for COVID-19 are derived from human antibodies that are isolated from a person who has previously recovered from COVID-19.

Antibodies are selected based on their high potency to neutralize the virus and their potential to remain effective when the virus mutates. These antibodies are produced in the laboratory by growing cells that produce the desired antibodies, and then harvesting the proteins they make.

If you received monoclonal antibody or antiviral therapy because you were sick with or exposed to COVID-19, you can get your COVID-19 vaccine at any time.

If you already received one or both doses of the vaccine and you are eligible, you can receive monoclonal antibody or antiviral treatment.