Antibody therapy may reduce COVID-19 hospitalizations

By Marie Y. Lemelle

Contributing Writer

COVID-19 vaccines are rolling out across the nation at a slower pace than expected.

Whether on the fence about getting vaccinated or on the waiting list, the devastation as a result of the disease continues. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health released the latest data about coronavirus cases Feb. 1 with 5,925 new COVID-19 cases (1,116,892 cases to date); 124 new deaths due to COVID-19 (16,770 deaths to date); with 5,328 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 and 27% of those in intensive care units.

More than 5.5 million people have been tested with 19% of those testing positive

If you or someone you know has mild and to moderate COVID-19 symptoms, there is a neutralizing antibody treatment for COVID-19. The Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization to Eli Lilly and Company for the use of the experimental drug bamlanivimab to treat adults and pediatric patients with mild to moderate coronavirus symptoms.

Monoclonal antibody therapy is a synthetic man-made protein which mimics what your body would make, as an antibody, to fight off an infection,” said Dr. Ramprasad Gopalan, an infectious disease physician in practice since 1991 and founder of First Class Medicine.

“Monoclonal antibodies for COVID-19 work by binding to the virus’ spike protein which in turn blocks its attachment to a receptor in the cell; and prevents the virus from entering the cell and causing damage,” Gopalan said. “That antibody, which is made for COVID-19, attaches to the spike protein so the virus can’t attach to the receptor and get inside the cell.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that the drug can be administered for the treatment of non-hospitalized adults and children aged 12 years or older who have a high risk for progressing to severe COVID-19 or hospitalization. High risks specified in the emergency use authorization include individuals older than 12 who have chronic kidney disease, diabetes mellitus, immunosuppressive disease or are currently receiving immunosuppressive treatment.

It is also available for people older than 65 or older than 55 with cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or other chronic respiratory disease.

People between 12 and 17 can receive the antibody if they have sickle cell disease, congenital or acquired heart disease, neurodevelopmental disorders, for example, cerebral palsy; or a medical-related technological dependence such as tracheostomy, gastrostomy, or positive pressure ventilation (not related to COVID-19); or asthma or a reactive airway or other chronic respiratory disease that requires daily medication for control.

According to the FDA, the investigational monoclonal antibody therapy is not authorized for adults or pediatric patients who are hospitalized due to COVID-19, adults or pediatric patients who require oxygen therapy due to COVID-19 or adults or pediatric patients who require an increase in baseline oxygen flow rate due to COVID-19 in those patients on chronic oxygen therapy due to underlying non-COVID-19-related comorbidity.

According to Eli Lily and Company, the drug bamlanivimab does not have any COVID-19 virus in it. If the drug is administered within 10 days of symptoms starting, it may help limit the amount of the virus in the body, help symptoms improve sooner and reduce the chances of being hospitalized.

“We administer the one-time dose of bamlanivimab intravenously in an outpatient setting as a treatment but is it not a substitute for the vaccine,” Gopalan said. “Typically, the infusion takes 16  to 60 minutes or longer.”

Patients are advised to remain at the infusion center after the injection for a couple of hours to ensure there is no immediate allergic reaction. Eli Lily warns that allergic reactions can happen during and after infusion with bamlanivimab.

During the infusion, patients may have brief pain, bleeding, bruising of the skin, soreness, swelling and possible infection at the point of needle entry. Symptoms after infusion can range from severe to life-threatening reactions including fever, chills, nausea, headache, shortness of breath, low or high blood pressure, rapid or slow heart rate, chest discomfort or pain, weakness, confusion, feeling tired, wheezing, swelling of lips, face, or throat, rash including hives, itching, muscle aches, dizziness and sweating.

Report side effects to your health provider, the FDA MedWatch or call (800) 332-1088.

Marie Y. Lemelle, is the founder of and a film producer. She can be reached at Follow her on Instagram @platinumstarpr.

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