Pharmacists hope new treatment will keep COVID patients out of the hospital

Local Coronavirus Coverage

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — As many hospitals in the Tri-Cities face an increasing number of COVID-19 patients, a local pharmacy is hoping a new treatment could keep these patients out of the hospital and even save their lives.

REGEN-Cov was given Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA earlier this month. Now, West Towne Pharmacy in Johnson City is offering it to high-risk patients.

REGEN-Cov or Regeneron is a combination of two monoclonal antibodies. According to West Towne Pharmacy, REGEN is the only treatment for COVID-19 that carries emergency use approval from the FDA by showing both safety and efficacy in clinical trials submitted to the FDA.

Dr. Kristen Archibald, Director of Clinical Services West Towne Pharmacy, said although the treatment is new, the use of monoclonal antibodies has been studied and used for a long time.

“Basically, the FDA has come out and said, ‘This is new, but the data and technology is there,'” said Dr. Archibald. “‘We’ve been making monoclonal antibodies for a while. We know quite a bit about them, and the benefits far outweigh the risks.'”

REGEN-Cov is used for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19 if someone has been exposed to the virus. The treatment is available to those who are considered high risk for severe symptoms of Covid-19. To receive the treatment, patients must get a referral from a healthcare provider. The hope is to keep them from experiencing severe symptoms and to keep them out of the hospital.

“I’m really excited about it, I think this could be a game-changer in terms of this pandemic, keeping people out of the hospital, saving lives,” said Dr. Archibald. “I think this has shown to be a very safe and effective treatment option for people.”

Patients will need to seek the medication after exposure or within 10 days of the onset of symptoms.

Those who get a referral from their doctor are asked to pull up outside of West Towne Pharmacy and call inside for the pharmacist. The patient will be asked to stay in the car and wear their mask. Pharmacists will wear masks, face shields, and gloves to administer the shots. Dr. Archibald advises wearing short sleeves and shorts if possible to make it easier to administer the shots.

Four shots are administered in several areas of the body — the back of the arms, the thighs, or the stomach. Dr. Archibald said this is to reduce the chances of side effects. Archibald said the risk for side effect is low and are more often seen when REGEN-Cov is given as an IV treatment, rather than a shot. Archibald said the most common symptoms they have seen are redness, irritation, and pain around the injection spot, but other side effects are possible.

Patients will need to stay for an hour after the treatment for monitoring. Dr. Archibald said they monitor temperature and O2 saturation before and after the injections. She said patients can expect to be at the pharmacy for 1 hour and 15 minutes or 1.5 hours.

She said they will be following up with patients in about a week or a week and a half to check on how they’re feeling.

Dr. Archibald advises people to speak with their doctor for a referral if they feel they qualify for the treatment.

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