Image of doctor's gloved hand holding a vial of monoclonal antibodies

Long-term care clinicians nationwide are having trouble getting timely shipments of lifesaving monoclonal antibody treatments (mAbs) for COVID-19 due to a recent change in federal policy, a new report finds.

From August  to September, doses delivered in U.S. nursing homes rose from 3,200 to 6,700 before falling sharply, according to Kaiser Health News.

Prior to mid-September, the drugs were readily available from a wholesaler and shipments were received within 48 hours. But demand for mAbs increased as the delta virus took hold in the summer, with Southern states gradually accounting for up to 70% of U.S. shipments. The Department of Health and Human Services then took over, barring individual sites from placing direct orders and going through state health departments instead in an effort to fairly allocate limited supplies, KHN reported

Although HHS said the rule was necessary, clinicians said it has had a devastating effect on the long-term care industry. 

“There are people dying in nursing homes right now, and we don’t know whether or not they could have been saved, but they didn’t have access to the product,” Chad Worz, CEO of the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists, told KHN.

What’s more, some states have prioritized acute care operators such as hospitals when apportioning doses, with long-term care sites left high and dry, according to Christopher Laxton, executive director of AMDA, the Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine.

Long-term care industry advocates sent a letter to the White House’s policy adviser Oct. 20, detailing the problem and asking for a federally coordinated program to ensure mAbs access. There has so far been no response, KHN reported.

COVID-19 monoclonal antibodies work by decreasing viral load and making severe illness less likely. They are authorized for use in high-risk patients and are particularly helpful in older adults, who naturally have lower response to vaccines and significantly less immunity to COVID-19 than younger adults, Laxton said.

The full story can be found here.