Dedication of team members supports program success
As another wave of COVID-19 infections began to grow in northeastern and central Wisconsin in the fall of 2021, ThedaCare sprang into action to help community members diagnosed with the virus through to monoclonal antibody treatments.
Monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) can help prevent or reduce hospitalizations, lower viral loads, and lessen the severity of COVID-19 symptoms. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has granted emergency use authorization (EUA) to mAbs for the treatment of COVID-19 patients at high risk of developing serious infection.
“Monoclonal antibodies are effective when given early in infection,” said Montgomery Elmer, MD, acting medical director of primary care for ThedaCare. “Currently available treatments must be administered within seven days of the onset of symptoms, so it is important to be diagnosed early.”
Monoclonal antibodies are artificially produced proteins created to attack specific diseased cells, thereby increasing a person’s immunity to disease. According to the National Institute of Health, the first approved use of mAbs was in 1986 to prevent kidney transplant rejection. The FDA currently approves approximately 30 mAbs for various clinical uses.
After the FDA issued the EUA for mAb treatments for COVID-19, Dr. Mark Cockley, Clinical Director of ThedaCare, challenged ThedaCare staff to develop a protocol to deliver the treatment. Dr. Elmer called Dr. Cockley back saying, “We have to do this. Let us know what obstacles you encounter; so let’s find out how to make these treatments happen.
As the late summer spike in COVID-19 infections began, ThedaCare appointed a steering committee to expedite treatments. They got to work setting up the initial mAb treatment program.
“The dedication of team members across the system and the support of our leadership team have been key factors in the success of delivering mAb treatments to our communities,” said Hollar, who organized the administration. treatments at multiple ThedaCare facilities. “We followed the science and data for mAb treatments. We had shown that we helped prevent serious illnesses requiring the hospitalization of certain patients. We were also seeing these patients recover faster. These were obvious benefits of offering these treatments to members of the community.
Hollar said it was also important to offer the treatments in a variety of locations, making them accessible to more people.
“We understand that for some patients, transportation can be a barrier,” she said. “To prevent patients from traveling long distances when not feeling well, we knew we had to meet patients where they tested positive and treat them there.”
ThedaCare offers monoclonal antibody treatments to patients who have been assessed by a healthcare provider and determined to meet the qualifications. ThedaCare does not accept home test results as qualification for treatment. Currently, sotrovimab is the only effective mAb treatment for the Omicron variant, and it is only administered intravenously. After either treatment, the patient should stay at the medical facility for an hour to observe any side effects.
As of February 2, 2022, ThedaCare has administered nearly 4,700 mAb treatments.
Dr. Elmer noted that the timing of mAb treatments is important.
“It is essential that patients with risk factors for severe disease, immunocompromised patients, those who are not vaccinated or those who are not fully vaccinated with chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension blood pressure, COPD, etc. be tested as soon as possible. , within the first seven days of symptom onset,” Dr. Elmer said. “We understand that to achieve the best possible results, these first seven days after symptom onset are a critical period to help reduce the risk of hospitalization and reduce the severity of symptoms with this treatment.”
Finding success with mAb treatments
Ruben Garza, a former patient of Dr. Elmer, received mAb treatment in October 2021. One day he developed a fever and sore throat while at work. His fever quickly shot up to between 102 and 103 degrees and he fought the fever for two days. Garza recalled the second day he developed pain and his wife, a pharmacy technician, suggested he get tested for COVID-19. It came back negative.
But Garza couldn’t break his fever and missed two more days of work.
“Saturday I went to an urgent care clinic thinking I might have strep throat, but the strep test was negative, so the doctor decided to retest for COVID, and that result was positive” , did he declare. “They reviewed my medical history and said that due to my asthma I was a candidate for monoclonal antibody treatment. They explained it to me and my wife, and gave us information to review.
Garza had not been vaccinated against COVID-19 and said he had reservations about the mAb treatment.
“My wife asked her colleagues at the pharmacy to review the information, and they said it was a good choice to receive the treatment,” Garza said. “Then when I found out that Dr. Elmer was leading the mAb program, it also helped me feel comfortable with my decision to receive the treatment.”
Garza received the mAb infusion the following Monday, seven days after his symptoms began. On Wednesday his fever started to drop and on Friday he remembered feeling much better.
“I still had a bit of shortness of breath, which was probably due to my asthma issues,” he said. “My sense of taste came back about a week after the infusion. But my sense of smell didn’t return until mid-November.
Garza noted that after 90 days after his mAb treatment, he would be vaccinated against COVID-19.
“We want people to understand that mAb treatments cannot be used in place of the vaccine because the vaccine is believed to provide longer protection than mAbs,” Dr. Elmer said. “Getting vaccinated remains the most important step in preventing COVID-19. We also recommend precautions such as wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and avoiding large indoor gatherings when COVID numbers are high. high in your area.
Hollar noted that ThedaCare is looking to the future, continuing to offer these treatments to people diagnosed with COVID.
“We are grateful to the team members who helped create this program when our communities needed it most,” she said. “I believe this is a testament to the dedication and commitment they have to providing accessible care, helping patients find a unique and better life.
For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health of the communities it serves in northeastern and central Wisconsin. The organization provides care to more than 600,000 residents in 18 counties and employs around 7,000 healthcare professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including seven hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in population health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their best lives through easy access to individualized care, supporting the health and well-being of everyone. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand unique needs, find solutions together, and drive health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care
Member of the network, giving specialists the opportunity to consult with Mayo Clinic experts about a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit healthcare system with a Level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer, stroke and cardiac treatment programs, and primary care.
For more information, visit thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should call Cassandra Wallace, PR and media consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the on-call marketing person.