SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – In a new study, researchers from Intermountain Healthcare have found that treating high-risk COVID-19 patients with a monoclonal antibody treatment reduced severe illness and hospitalizations by more than 50% and saved many patients from dying due to complications from the virus.

The antibody treatment must be given to a patients within seven days of symptoms and is most effective for first time COVID-19 patients.

“Most effective on patients who do not have antibodies against COVID-19 to recall monoclonal antibodies mimic the bodies natural antibody response,” Dr. Brandon Webb, MD infectious diseases says.

Monoclonal treatment is given via intravenous infusion and doctors say there is plenty of this treatment made available by operation warp speed passed under former President Donald Trump.

Given the documented success of the treatment, and in light of the Delta variant surge in the U.S., researchers say more resources are needed to fund and expand treatment for high-risk patients.

“In a real-world application, we found that these monoclonal antibodies are as effective as clinical trial results suggested,” explains Dr. Webb. “Based on our findings, we recommend putting resources towards monoclonal treatment programs because they help patients avoid poor outcomes, and because they are a powerful tool to prevent overflowing hospitals.” 

Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 remains the most effective way to prevent severe disease and death. However, for patients who do contract COVID-19, especially those at high risk for complications, monoclonal antibodies are a vital tool, researchers say.

“It’s critical that patients be tested early in their symptoms because these treatments only work within the first seven days of symptoms onset, so access to testing is key,” Dr. Webb stressed. 

The Intermountain Healthcare study, published in Open Forum Infectious Diseases, examined 594 high-risk, ambulatory patients at Intermountain hospitals who received either bamlanivimab (made by Eli Lilly) or casirivimab/imdevimab (made by Regeneron) infusions within seven days of the onset of symptoms in December 2020 and January 2021. 

The Intermountain researchers compared the patient’s health outcomes to patients from two different control groups, one drawn from the electronic health records of similar high-risk patients who were ill from July to November 2020 (when treatments were not available), and another group of patients from December 2020 and January 2021 who did not receive treatment.

When compared to 5,536 patients who did not receive a monoclonal antibody infusion, those who did were 31% less likely to need either emergency care or hospital admission and 57% less likely to require hospitalization alone, according to the study.

In fact, their mortality rate in the monoclonal treatment group was also 0.2% (one death) compared to 1.0% of the historical control group (71 deaths) and 1% of the post-implementation control group (57 deaths), researchers found. 

Researchers also found that complications from monoclonal aintibody treatments were very rare, on par with those of any kind of infusion treatment. 

“We suspected that these monoclonal antibody treatments would be safe for patients based on results from clinical trials, but we were excited to find that these treatments can be very safely delivered to a variety of patients in a real-world setting,” states Dr. Webb. 

The study was conducted when the Alpha variant, also known as the UK Variant, was the dominant COVID-19 strain found in the U.S. Additional research has found that bamlanivimab is not effective against the Delta variant, now the dominant strain in the U.S., so all monoclonal treatments given at this time are with casirivimab/imdevimab, said Dr. Webb.

As effective as these monoclonal antibody infusions are, widespread implementation is limited by challenging logistics, such as finding locations that can do infusion treatments of actively sick patients without putting other infusion patients, like those with cancer, at risk – and limited clinical resources. 

To be considered for monoclonal antibody treatment, patients must be over 18 years old, have a positive COVID-19 test, be symptomatic, and be no more than seven days from the onset of symptoms. 

The Utah COVID-19 Risk Score Calculator, which was validated on 20,000 patients to determine it accurately predicted who would become very sick with COVID-19, then identifies who is most at risk for severe complications, and including factors like age, gender, and existing comorbidities.