Experimental COVID-19 treatment available at Peoria hospitals


PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — OSF HealthCare and UnityPoint Health have both received an experimental COVID-19 treatment for patients who are high risk. This comes at a time when hospitalizations are on the rise, and officials hope to avoid reaching capacity. 

This is the same “miracle cure” that President Trump received back in October. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave the drug company Eli Lilly an emergency use authorization (EUA) in November to make the monoclonal antibody treatment, called  Bamlanivimab (BAM). 

“BAM is a monoclonal antibody, and antibodies are protein molecules our body makes to fight foreign invaders, explained Mark Meeker, D.O., vice president of physician services at OSF HealthCare. “So we isolate this antibody that we know fights the COVID virus, and we’re able to reproduce it in the lab and then use it to treat patients as though they made the antibody themselves.”

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BAM is currently being administered in specially designated outpatient infusion sites throughout the OSF HealthCare Ministry. It is only effective if taken within 10 days of first getting symptoms. It is currently reserved for patients that are not hospitalized but are at high risk of developing a severe case of COVID-19.

Doctors hope this treatment keeps them out of the hospital.

“My hope is that we see a drop in hospitalization within these high-risk categories,” said Brian Curtis, M.D., vice president, clinical specialty services OSF HealthCare. “The categories that the EUA has selected are the patients that we have seen historically over the last eight months have a higher risk of having a bad outcome from COVID, having a more prolonged course, and getting admitted to the hospital. And so that’s why we’re targeting this population, not a general population.”

As COVID-19 cases spike in Central Illinois, it is essential local hospitals avoid reaching capacity.

“Other diseases aren’t going away because COVID is here,” added Meeker.

“So people still need treatment for other illnesses. People still need surgeries. They still need procedures. They need screenings. They get sick with other diseases. So we need the capacity to take care of them. We can’t afford for our hospitals to totally fill up with COVID, because then we can’t take care of other people. So I am really, really hopeful that this antibody indeed lowers the progression of disease in this high-risk population, so we can keep our hospitals out of full capacity.”

Factors that qualify patients for BAM include age, body-mass index, and other underlying health conditions.

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