Aspirus having luck treating COVID-19 with experimental drug

Published: Mar. 19, 2021 at 6:17 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - Aspirus has announced that it just surpassed treating 300 patients with an experimental antibody drug to treat COVID-19 patients. They say the drug is proving very successful.

The drug was developed by a pharmaceutical company to target the spikes on the COVID-19 virus. That makes it much more difficult for the virus to invade cells and cause severe reactions. It’s meant for high risk groups with mild to moderate symptoms. These include the elderly, obese, or people over 55 with chronic health conditions. And so far it has lowered the treated group to a 4% hospitalization rate, instead of the 17 to 20% expected for these patients.

“Just sort of downstream hospitalization with COVID, there’s about a 20% mortality rate or death rate once you’re in the hospital if you have COVID-19. So I really feel that this treatment is saving lives,” said Medical Branch Director of the System Emergency Operation Center Dr. Renee Smith.

The drug, called Bamlanivimab, was approved for emergency use authorization like the vaccines.

There is no supply shortage with the drug like there is with the vaccines. Any qualifying person who wants the treatment can get it, and Smith says Aspirus is continuing to do outreach to help more people. She said there have been some who have refused the treatment, either because their symptoms were so mild, or that they did not trust a drug that is relatively new.

As for side effects, Dr. Smith said only about 1% of the patients treated reported anything. She said a couple of patients experienced rashes, and one person said they had some tingling, but no serious side effects have been seen.

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