UPMC announces new therapy for COVID patients

UPMC doctors announced a new therapy to help protect some of the most vulnerable COVID-19 patients. Doctors said it’s protection they can’t get with the current vaccines.

Starting Thursday, UPMC hospitals are distributing doses of Astra Zeneca’s Evusheld, which is the first ever antibody for prevention of COVID-19 prior to an exposure that’s been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration.

“Our patients that have compromised autoimmune systems way not respond as robustly from Covid-19 vaccination as other patients and while they should be absolutely vaccinated, its exciting for us to have an additional long-acting antibody medication that serves as an extra layer of protection for some of our most valuable patients,” said Dr. Erin McCreary for UPMC.

Dr. McCreary said those eligible for the new therapy have to be 12 years and older, weigh at least 88 pounds and have moderately or severely compromised immune systems.

The therapy is a combination of two different antibodies. There are two injections, one in each arm.

Clinical trial data shows the antibodies last six months to a year and they are intended to be given before exposure to COVID-19 to help people from getting sick.

Meanwhile, there are two antiviral COVID-19 pills that received emergency use authorization last week. One was developed by Pfizer and the other by Merck. I asked Dr. McCreary when the pills will be available in our area.

“We had a state call yesterday,” said Dr. McCreary. “As of right now, we do not know when we will receive either of those products, but we do know when we receive them. We will also receive extremely limited supply and its unclear right now if the distribution of these medications will go to health systems or if they will go directly to our retail partners.”

Dr. McCreary also said one of the three products of monoclonal antibodies on the market is working against the new omicron variant.

This week, UPMC received a shipment of about 450 doses of the new therapy. UPMC got one-quarter of the supply the state was given by the federal government. They expect to have limited shipments over the upcoming weeks.