Federal health officials are urging long-term care and other providers to prioritize the use of combination monoclonal antibody therapies to treat COVID-19 after after researchers found them to be more effective against the variants than single-drug solutions. 

“While everyone is extremely grateful for the fact that vaccines are more widely available and that a lot of patients in long-term care will have been vaccinated, we would like to see, not necessarily an ‘either-or’ approach, but an ‘and’ approach,” said Meredith Chuk, M.D., who leads the the COVID-19 Monoclonal Antibody Therapeutics Team under the Federal COVID Response team. 

As part of the Federal COVID Response team, Meredith Chuk, MD, is Lead for the COVID-19 Monoclonal Antibody Therapeutics Team, working within the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) for HHS.

“We still have the therapeutics available for those patients who do get COVID,” she added. 

The Food and Drug Administration in mid-April revoked its Emergency Use Authorization for the investigational monoclonal antibody therapy bamlanivimab after finding that COVID-19 variants were resistant to the therapy treatment when it was used alone.

Two alternative combination monoclonal antibody therapies (casirivimab and imdevimab, and bamlanivimab and etesevimab) are still authorized for emergency use under the FDA. 

“That was because of the increase in some of the variants,” Chuk told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News last week. “We had stopped distribution of the bamblanivimab several weeks prior to that and this was not unanticipated.”

She added that the federal government does have enough supply of the other two combination therapy treatments, which both physicians and providers have access to. The administration of the therapies are covered by Medicare. 

“They now can contact directly through the distributor. If a long-term care facility has their own pharmacy, that pharmacy can order product directly from our authorized distributor, which is AmerisourceBergen,” Chuk explained. “That way they have an idea of what their patient population is, how much product they’re likely to need so they have control over that process.” 

The treatment was a popular tool pushed toward long-term care earlier in the year — with research showing that it drastically reduced — by 80% — the risk of nursing home residents contracting COVID-19. 

Chuck explained the use of monoclonal antibody therapies played a very important role early in the pandemic when the number of COVID cases was really high, especially in congregate settings like nursing homes. 

“These are all important tools and we really would like providers to be aware of them and be able to use them to really reduce the hospitalizations in our high-risk patients,” she said.