Monoclonal Antibody Study Drives Seven-Fold Increase in COVID Treatment

The latest results from a monoclonal antibody study have driven a seven-fold increase in the use of the COVID-19 treatment.

A study from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) has shown that monoclonal antibodies—when used to treat COVID-19 patients soon after their diagnosis—significantly decrease hospitalization and death from the disease.

Before the study, which was completed in partnership with the White House COVID-19 Response Team, a small percentage of eligible patients in the U.S. were able to receive the potentially lifesaving treatment.

"Now, we're able to offer monoclonal antibodies in the context of a clinical trial at every single one of our available treatment sites—resulting in a 7.5-fold increase in the number of eligible patients receiving this treatment," lead author and UPMC infectious disease pharmacist Erin McCreary said in a Wednesday press release.

Monoclonal antibodies work by binding to viruses the way normal antibodies do, but these antibodies are also designed to recognize a specific part of the virus—the spike protein. By targeting the component on the shell, the treatment prevents the virus from attaching and infecting cells.

Data from UPMC patients showed that both Eli Lilly and Company therapies authorized for emergency use by the FDA—bamlanivimab-etesevimab and casirivimab-imdevimab—were safe and appeared to be equally effective.

The trial was conducted between March 10 and June 25 with over 5,000 COVID-19 patients.

The study's expanded use of monoclonal antibodies allowed researchers to overcome racial disparities in who was receiving the treatment. Use of monoclonal antibodies had been concentrated when FDA authorization was first granted.

Monoclonal Antibodies COVID Treatment Regeneron Study
Data shows that monoclonal antibody treatment significantly decreases hospitalization and death from COVID-19. Above, a man enters the Regeneron Clinic at a monoclonal antibody treatment site in Pembroke Pines, Florida, on August 19, 2021. Chandan Khanna/AFP

"The whole world is in a race to tame the virus that causes COVID-19," co-author and UPMC's chief innovation officer Dr. Derek Angus said. "If we get COVID-19, monoclonal antibodies are currently our best bet to keep ourselves and our loved ones alive and out of the hospital."

"In our quest for a cure, we've had the good fortune to have multiple options available, leaving doctors with the question: Which one is best for my patient? Right now, the answer is that the best option is the one you can give your patient fastest," he added.

The next phase of the trial will evaluate how well the monoclonal antibody treatments work against coronavirus variants, including Delta, which is now the predominant strain in the U.S.

Last month, the nation's top-infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, also recommended the use of monoclonal antibodies, calling them "effective" yet "underutilized" by most physicians treating early cases of the virus.

Monoclonal antibody therapeutic treatments have been shipped nationwide by the Department of Health and Human Services. Nearest locations can be found on the HHS website.