Monoclonal antibodies, a COVID-19 treatment given early after coronavirus infection, cut the risk of hospitalization and death by nearly 70% in those most likely to suffer complications of the disease, according to a preliminary analysis of UPMC patients who received the medication compared to similar patients who did not.
In an effort to share crucial information and save lives, UPMC and University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine physician-scientists published the findings in medRxiv, a preprint journal, and announced the results ahead of peer-reviewed publication. McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine affiliated faculty member Derek Angus, MD, MPH, Executive Vice President, and Chief Healthcare Innovation Officer, UPMC; Associate Vice Chancellor for Healthcare Innovation, University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences; Distinguished Professor and Mitchell P. Fink Endowed Chair, Department of Critical Care Medicine, University of Pittsburgh and UPMC; Senior editor, JAMA, is a co-author on the study.
“A one-time monoclonal antibody treatment has helped keep our patients with COVID-19 out of the hospital,” said Erin McCreary, PharmD, an infectious diseases pharmacist at UPMC and clinical assistant professor in Pitt’s School of Medicine. “If given early to high-risk patients, this treatment works to prevent COVID-19-related complications. We look forward to research with next-generation monoclonal antibodies and hope to continue to find safe and effective treatments for our patients.”
Monoclonal—“mono” means “one” and “clonal” means “copy”—antibodies are a type of medication that seeks out the COVID-19 virus in a person’s body and blocks it from infecting their cells and replicating. Since late 2020, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration has granted Emergency Use Authorization to three monoclonal antibody treatments—one from Regeneron and two from Eli Lilly—which are given through a one-time IV infusion. This is the same type of emergency authorization given to the COVID-19 vaccines being administered in the U.S.
Federal and UPMC guidelines require the antibodies be administered within 10 days of COVID-19 symptom onset and diagnosis for patients at high risk of a poor outcome, including patients of advanced age, who are obese or those with conditions such as diabetes or lung disease.
UPMC has given monoclonal antibody infusions to more than 1,000 qualifying patients in the past three months. The researchers analyzed data on approximately the first half of those patients to learn how they’re faring since their infusions. They compared antibody-treated patients’ data to that of a matched set of patients of similar age and health status who had contracted COVID-19 and were eligible for the treatment but did not receive it.
The strongest effect was seen in older patients. Those age 65 and older who received monoclonal antibodies from UPMC were nearly three times less likely to be hospitalized or die in the following month, compared to their untreated counterparts. The results were less pronounced in younger populations, but overall, more positive results were seen in those who received monoclonal antibody infusions than in those who did not.
UPMC’s data also showed a stronger positive effect the earlier patients received the treatment after contracting the virus, and a very low rate of adverse reactions to the infusion, all of which were mild.
“If there’s one key take-away that we’re seeing in our data, it’s this: If you get COVID-19 and are at higher risk for severe illness, ask your doctor about monoclonal antibodies,” said Graham Snyder, MD, MS, medical director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiology at UPMC and associate professor in Pitt’s School of Medicine. “Don’t hesitate. Early treatment, while your symptoms are still mild, may be essential.”
UPMC offers monoclonal antibody infusions at 16 sites in Pennsylvania and New York, as well as home infusion services, if needed. Patients and providers can find out more about monoclonal antibody treatment at UPMC by visiting upmc.com/AntibodyTreatment or calling 866-804-5251.
Abstract (Impact of monoclonal antibody treatment on hospitalization and mortality among non-hospitalized adults with SARS-CoV-2 infection. J Ryan Bariola, Erin K McCreary, Richard J Wadas, Kevin E Kip, Oscar C Marroquin, Tami Minnier, Stephen Koscumb, Kevin Collins, Mark Schmidhofer, Judith A Shovel, Mary Kay Wisniewski, Colleen Sullivan, Donald M Yealy, David A Nace, David T Huang, Ghady Haidar, Tina Khadem, Kelsey Linstrum, Christopher W Seymour, Stephanie K Montgomery, Derek C Angus, Graham M Snyder. medRxiv, March 30, 2021.)