By: Michael Mandarino, Follow South Jersey Managing Editor
MARLTON, N.J. — As hospitals across the country are overburdened with COVID-19 patients in need of treatment, Virtua Health — an urgent care chain based in South Jersey — is one of the first entities in the U.S. to offer monoclonal antibody treatments.
The treatments, which are administered through a drug called bamlanivimab, help high-risk patients who don’t need hospitalization and are experiencing “mild to moderate” COVID-19 cases. Virtua Health has administered more than 100 treatments of the drug since December.
In order to be eligible to receive the drug for treatment, you have to be older than 65 years old, have a body mass index (BMI) of 35 or higher, or have a preexisting health condition like diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and immunosuppressive disease, among others. Patients aged 55 or older can receive the drug if they have certain chronic health conditions.
“We’re very proud to be among the first in our region to offer this exciting new therapy,” Dr. John Matsinger, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Virtua Health, said in a press release. “Early studies suggest that bamlanivimab may resolve symptoms more quickly and possibly reduce progression of disease and associated hospitalizations. Further studies are ongoing regarding its use and effectiveness, but we are glad to have this treatment option as part of our larger toolkit for caring for those with COVID-19.”
Like the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines that are being administered across the United States, bamlanivimab received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration in late 2020. Bamlanivimab essentially imitates the body’s immune response to COVID-19 cells, and it was specifically designed in a lab to block the coronavirus’ entry into the cells.
According to Virtua Health, bamlanivimab treatments are most effective within two to three days of COVID-19’s symptoms developing in a person’s body.
You can find the locations of Virtua Health’s urgent care centers, hospitals, and primary care facilities on its official website.
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