Monoclonal antibody treatments harder to find in Tennessee, here’s why

Coronavirus

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Local healthcare systems and pharmacies are saying monoclonal antibody treatments are harder to find statewide due to tighter restrictions. At first, states were able to freely order the treatments from distributors — now, the Department of Health and Human Services is in control of who receives the treatments and how many.

This has put a strain on places like UT Medical Center and local pharmacies. Monoclonal antibody treatments have been readily available for patients who have become critically ill with COVID-19 and who are considered at high risk.

However, supply concerns have changed that according to Dr. James Shamiyeh, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at UT Medical Center. “Hospitals have seen multiple changes in how they order and receive the monoclonal antibody and quite frankly we’re not sure where this is going to land,” he said.

Shamiyeh added, “There’s been some concern about shipment delays and even some concerns about the supply of the medication if it’s going to meet the very vigorous demand.”

Belew Drug Pharmacists were looking into being able to provide the treatments for their patients. Head pharmacist at their Washington Pike location, Matt Windham said, “The Department of Health and Human Services released an amendment to the Prep Act. Part of that came the ability for pharmacists to prescribe monoclonal antibody therapies, covid therapies.”

However, because of the new rule, they’re not sure when they can apply for the treatments through their private distributors. “When I went to that portal, it had a long notice as of September 13th,” Windham explained. “Monoclonal antibodies had to be disseminated and distributed at the discretion of the state and local health departments.”

Windham said they’ll continue to monitor the situation and hope to sign up to receive the treatments when they become more available, “We’re expecting this to lighten up in the next few weeks but right now it’s just tightened down to help with reporting and make sure monoclonal antibodies are going to the places they need to go.”

Doctors say that the treatments work. now they’re waiting on the distribution of the product, too. “Clearly, if we don’t have the medication we can’t treat patients with it,” said Dr. Shamiyeh.

The distribution of the monoclonal antibody treatments is different statewide, based on case levels and treatment use. The Department of Health has a list of medical facilities that offer monoclonal antibody treatment, and you can find that list here.

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