DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) — Two infusion centers providing North Texans with COVID-19 free access to antibody treatments to potentially lessen the severity of their illness are being drastically underused, according to the state.
The Texas Division of Emergency Management opened centers at undisclosed locations in Irving and Fort Worth Monday. An information sheet provided by the agency states each one can handle 50 patients a day. A spokesperson Wednesday, said, so far, they’ve treated a total of only five.
When Randy Isenberg, of Dallas, was diagnosed with COVID-19 in December, he received a monoclonal antibody treatment. “Immediately when the infusion started, I felt better,” he recalls. “It’s a miracle treatment.”
In general, though, he doesn’t hear much about the antibody drugs. “I think a lot of people don’t know about them, or they don’t know to ask their doctors,” he said.
It’s the same type of treatment President Trump received, when he contracted the COVID-19 virus.
Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health says it can work, when given early in a patient’s illness, to stop the virus from spreading in the body. “Monoclonal antibodies stick right to the part of this spike protein that represents the part that binds to the human cell and lets the virus get inside. So you cover that up and the virus has nowhere to go,” he explained.
As hospitals have been overwhelmed with COVID patients, federal and state leaders have urged doctors to use these antibody drugs to treat patients 65 and older or those with pre-existing conditions putting them at risk of hospitalization.
“You should be asking your doctor or healthcare provider why you are not being given one of the FDA authorized antibody therapies that are in ready supply,” said U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar in a press conference Tuesday. “We have product sitting on the shelves that can help keep people out of the hospital.”
When asked why the therapy wasn’t being prescribed more often, though, several doctors told CBS11 it the drugs were in limited supply. “They’re not very prevalent right now and so they’re not just, they’re not just being given to just anybody,” said Dr. Joseph Chang, chief medical officer for Parkland Hospital.
“It’s, you know, not hanging from the ceiling in every ER room, so we need to be mindful about our resources and use it for those patients who are going to be benefit the most from it,” said Dr. Mark Casanova with the Dallas County Medical Society.
Other doctors expressed they were unaware of the state-provided centers and unsure of the process to refer patients. “These facilities have plenty of therapeutic doses on hand,” wrote TDEM spokesperson Seth Christensen. “Those two sites have received 170 infusion doses as of (Tuesday) so supply is not an issue.”
MORE FROM CBSDFW