JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL)- New regulations are bringing changes to how monoclonal antibody infusions are ordered to treat patients with COVID-19.
Instead of ordering from the manufacturer, providers now have to go through state health departments.
“They gave us some warning a few weeks ago when we did our orders that we needed to order a couple of weeks worth at a time,” said Julie Cooper, who owns West Towne Pharmacy in Johnson City. “From discussions with the state that they’re working through this in order volume. So, their first priority on day one was, ‘We need to get these to the hospitals, we need to get these to the infusion centers.’ So, what that meant for some of us in the community was a little uncertain. We expected that we would run out before we got more.”
Cooper says there were almost two weeks where shipments weren’t going out.
“Fortunately, we had stocked up to a point that we haven’t had a disruption and we did receive additional treatments [Monday],” Cooper said.
With high case numbers across the Tri-Cities, the usage of the treatment has also increased significantly, so much so that Ballad Health opened a center solely dedicated to the infusions.
“We’ve certainly seen an impact over the last couple of weeks as it moved from ordering directly from the manufacturer. Right now, our pharmacy team is working directly with the state. We’re getting more shipments in this week,” said Chief Infection Prevention Officer Jamie Swift. “While it’s certainly changed things, it’s changed how we do things, right now we still have that supply, we’re still able to offer that treatment.”
The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services says the Delta variant has caused “a substantial surge in the utilization of monoclonal antibody drugs, particularly in areas of the country with low vaccination rates.”
The department says the change allows for more flexibility to get the treatments to areas that need them most.
“Now, you’re going through the state process which is how we’ve done many things through this. It’s to really kind of make sure that the supply is distributed evenly and as needed,” Swift explained.
Cooper believes this could allow places in the region to get shipments faster.
“Allowing this to go to the states is going to allow better decisions to be made in regards to this getting to the places that it needs to get to,” Cooper said. “In Tennessee specifically right now and in our area, it’s profound. That’s not the case for everywhere in Tennessee, it’s not the case for everywhere in the United States. The hope is by taking this out of being so largely federally mandated that this will now allow the areas that need the treatment to have better access to it.”
Providers also say having the option to get a monoclonal antibody infusion if you have COVID-19 is not a reason to skip out on the shot.