What Are Monoclonal Antibodies and Can They Treat COVID-19?
While vaccination remains the most effective and highest recommended prevention against COVID-19, Ochsner doctors have seen great success with the use of monoclonal antibody therapy to treat patients in early disease.
Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off viruses and are given to help patients before they can mount an immune response. In other words, they are designed to provide you with passive immunity to COVID-19 for a short period of time.
When you become infected or are vaccinated against a disease, your body naturally produces antibodies to give you immunity. However, that typically takes weeks.
Monoclonal antibodies are ideally administered within the first three to four days of the onset of symptoms and have been shown to be most effective when given in the first 10 days. The treatment has been shown to reduce hospitalization or death in non-hospitalized COVID patients by 70%.
Ochsner has administered almost 10,000 monoclonal antibody treatments throughout Louisiana and parts of Mississippi. Of those patients, only 28 – less than 0.3% — have been admitted to the hospital for COVID-19 illness.
While the results we have seen using this treatment are encouraging, health care providers still recommend vaccination as a first and best means of defense. Monoclonal antibody therapy is not a substitute for vaccination.
In fact, patients who receive monoclonal antibodies should get a COVID-19 vaccine 90 days after treatment.
The treatment, which is under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the FDA, is only available by infusion or injection – not by mouth. It has been approved for use in patients 12 and older and can be used in both vaccinated and unvaccinated patients who are at increased risk of COVID-19 complications.
Ochsner uses Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody drug treatment and has seen very few side effects in patients. We have increased our use of the treatment over the past few months as we have seen COVID cases rise locally.
It is important to note that monoclonal antibody treatment is not authorized for patients who are hospitalized due to COVID-19. According to the FDA, the treatment has not been shown to be beneficial in patients hospitalized for COVID-19 symptoms and may be associated with worse clinical outcomes when given to patients requiring oxygen or patients who are on a ventilator, which is why it is important to get monoclonal antibody treatment early on with the onset of symptoms.
Again, vaccination is the best defense against COVID-19. However, if you do contract COVID-19, talk to your health care provider early in your diagnosis to find out whether monoclonal antibodies are the appropriate course of therapy for you.