UPMC, Pitt release results of largest clinical trial of monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19

PITTSBURGH — UPMC doctors addressed the latest COVID trends during a news conference Wednesday, particularly highlighting the success they’ve seen with monoclonal antibody treatment.

“So far, this trial has already shown us that the best monoclonal antibody is the one that’s available to you,” said Dr. Derek Angus, UPMC Chief Innovation Officer.

Angus stated that to date, 5,700 UPMC patients have been treated with a type of monoclonal antibody, which is essentially a potent version of the natural defense that bodies build to fight a virus. Researchers are right now continuing to study their effectiveness against the Delta variant, but so far, the treatment has proved to be successful at combating COVID.

“We’ve had just a handful of mild adverse reactions, not uncommon really from receiving any other medication, so we have found them to be remarkably safe and remarkably effective,” said Angus.

Angus said the treatment is ideally offered to COVID-positive patients as soon as possible, and can resultantly reduce the chance of hospitalization. Some children older than 12 have been among recipients.

Between the treatment and others, “the odds of death has been falling by 5 percent every month.”

With that said, the doctors still urge people to get vaccinated, wear masks, and socially distance.

“Delta is spreading among people we previously considered less vulnerable,” said Dr. Rachel Sackrowitz, Chief Medical Officer, UPMC ICU Service Center.

Sackrowitz said even people in their twenties have become critically ill, and that the “overwhelming majority” of hospitalized patients are unvaccinated.

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UPMC’s top pediatrician also noted an increasing number of children getting sick.

“We are seeing an increase in outpatient cases of COVID in children in the clinics and the emergency department and an increase in children hospitalized with COVID,” said Dr. John Williams, Chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases.

Williams said in some cases, the children had preexisting conditions, but in other cases, they were otherwise healthy. He would not specify exactly how many children are currently being treated.

The findings of the OPTIMISE-C19 study worked to compare the effectiveness of monoclonal antibodies and two different treatments for outpatients with COVID-19.

The next phase of the trial, which is already in progress, will take a look at how well the current authorized treatments work against coronavirus variants, including delta, to prevent hospitalization and death.