Majority of monoclonal antibody to fight COVID-19 therapy still sitting on shelves

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- It's the only authorized treatment that can help keep people with COVID-19 out of the hospital, but hundreds-of-thousands of doses aren't being used.

The effectiveness of monoclonal antibody therapy isn't completely proven, but early research shows the treatments can prevent the infection from getting worse. Two drugs were authorized for use in November and then more than 500,000 doses shipped, with more to follow.

But Health and Human Services says only about 25% of supply has been used.

"Things got pretty bad pretty quickly," said Dr. Wendy Ross.

Despite being careful, Dr. Ross, a pediatrician who specializes in developmental disorders, was recently infected with COVID-19. She's a single parent and at high risk for complications due to a medication she takes.

A friend suggested she get an infusion of monoclonal antibody therapy. Both President Trump and Governor Chris Christie received the treatment early in their illnesses.

More research is needed, but preliminary data show it may help prevent the infection from getting worse.

"I felt like I had to do everything possible to stay okay," said Dr. Ross.

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The government reports only about 25% of the supply of monoclonal antibody therapy used to treat COVID-19 has been used.

But it was a holiday weekend and finding a local medical center to administer the drug was difficult.

It's a similar story nationwide. Spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services tells ABC News only 25% of supply has been used.

Dr. Martin Topiel, Chief of Infection Control at Virtua Health, says logistically it's difficult.

"You need the support staff, the identification of patients, the right nurses, nurse availability, you also need a location or infusion center where you can perform this safely because we are taking care of Covid patient."

But given the potential benefits, Virtua set up a system to make sure patients who met the criteria could get the infusion. So far they've treated 145 patients.

"We don't have a lot of treatments to offer patients with COVID-19, particularly outpatient," Dr. Topiel said, adding "but this is one medication we have so we want to be able to offer it to the community."

Dr. Ross was able to get the therapy in time. She believes it worked.

"It's hard to describe, but I went from feeling like my whole body was inflamed to feeling it calm."

She says her symptoms resolved, except fatigue. She shares her story to ensure others who may be at high risk know about the therapy.

Criteria to be eligible include: COVID-19 patients with mild to moderate symptoms who are not hospitalized and at high risk for complications

Also, it must be given within 10 days of symptoms - but especially within three to five days is best.
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