Holy Name Medical Center Blog

Breakthrough COVID-19 Antibody Therapy is at Holy Name

Posted by Ravit Barkama, MD, MPH
Assistant Vice President, Clinical Development, Holy Name Medical Center

Thomas Birch, MD
Medical Director, Institute for Clinical Research
Chair, Infection Prevention
Holy Name Medical Center on February 18, 2021
Ravit Barkama, MD, MPH, Assistant Vice President

We now have a highly effective therapy against COVID-19 if it is given early. Monoclonal antibody therapy comprises antibodies developed and manufactured by the Regeneron and Eli Lilly companies and provided to Holy Name by the federal government.

These antibodies are developed from the most potent antibodies made by people who have had COVID-19. They have been tested and then synthesized in the lab. The antibodies are not a blood or human product; only the design is taken from humans. They are very well tolerated, with only three out of 512 patients that we have treated showing a mild reaction. Researchers at Holy Name were the first in the world to use this breakthrough therapy in June 2020.

How It Works

Thomas Birch, MD, Medical Director, Institute for Clinical Research

The antibodies bind to the COVID-19 virus, allowing the immune system to clear it and produce a rapid decrease in the amount of virus in the nose. Patients feel better after about 48 hours. Complications and hospitalizations have been reduced by about two-thirds.

Four months ago, only the President of the United States could receive this therapy outside of a clinical research trial. Now it is available in adequate amounts in our own community through Holy Name Medical Center. Please note that this is therapy for COVID-19 infection and not the vaccine, which is used to prevent infection.

To receive this therapy, an individual must have COVID-19 AND be at increased risk for complications of the infection according to the requirements of the Food and Drug Administration. These include any of the following:

  • Diabetes
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Immune disorder or immunosuppressive treatment
  • Obesity (BMI of 35 or above)
  • Age 65 or older
  • Age 55 or older with cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, COPD or chronic lung disease

You Must Be Tested First

You must have at least one symptom of COVID-19 and a positive test result to be considered for this treatment. If you have not been tested, call 201 833-3313 to schedule a test in our walk-up/drive-through testing center. Tell them that you need a same-day test to qualify for the antibodies. If your test is positive, you will be contacted by our telemedicine service and evaluated to see if you qualify for antibodies.

If you already have a positive test, ask your healthcare provider to refer you to Holy Name’s telemedicine service at 201-541-5971 or NorthJerseyTelemedicine.com.

Timing is Critical

These antibodies work best when given in the first two to five days of symptoms, but they may be given up to 10 after the onset. They are given as a one-time intravenous infusion lasting an hour. You will be observed for an hour before discharge. You will use a pulse oximeter for monitoring the oxygen in your blood at home. Nurse practitioners will check your progress with telephone monitoring. Using this remarkable therapy early in the illness for those who qualify is a powerful way to prevent complications and recover quickly.