Monoclonal Antibody Treatments Are Being Underutilized

People with early COVID-19 could be taking monoclonal antibody treatments, but they are not getting out to patients or to providers.

Studies show that the usage of these treatments could reduce hospitalizations by up to 70% if used early in the progression of the disease, especially among those who are at high risk of becoming very sick.

According to the FDA, monoclonal antibodies should be given as soon as possible after symptoms emerge and a person tests positive for infection. And, because of limited supply, the authorizations are limited to high-risk patients, such as people 65 and older, those who have a BMI (body mass index) of 35 or greater and those with other health conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease or chronic kidney disease.

An HHS spokesperson confirmed that a new report showed only 5%-20% of the available supply of monoclonal antibodies are actually being used — an ironic statistic considering one big concern was that there would not be enough supply to meet demand. It is the first time HHS had requested utilization information from facilities and providers administering the drugs.

“We’ve got to get the therapeutics used. We need patients who test positive, who are at risk of hospitalization, to get on these monoclonal antibodies. We actually have more right now than there are getting used. We’ve got to get them earlier, so we keep people out of hospitals,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said.

So why aren’t more people trying to access these potentially life-saving medications, especially since both the drugs are mostly free, under Operation Warp Speed?

These antibodies, for the last month since authorization, have been distributed around the country. So, they should be available locally, and it’s under state jurisdiction,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said.