Covid Antibody Drugs Go Unused as Need Soars

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Until recently, the federal government did not require hospitals to report how many doses they had given to patients, although it will begin to do so starting Jan. 8. There is also no single hotline or website to help patients locate a provider in their area who is offering the treatments.

Dr. Skovronsky said that patients who call Eli Lilly’s hotline eventually get the treatments. “But that’s not right,” he said. “It shouldn’t be only for people who are persistent, who know how to call around and have doctors to get it. It should be for everyone.”

Doctors and hospital executives said factors that have hindered the U.S. response to the coronavirus have also gotten in the way of distributing antibody treatments.

Every day in Green Bay, Wisconsin, doctors at Prevea Health, a large physician practice in the state, call high-risk patients tested through the state to offer the treatments. But federal testing sites don’t share patient information, making it difficult to reach people who could benefit.

“We haven’t done a very good job — nationally, locally, wherever — of getting to those high-risk populations and saying, ‘Hey, if you start feeling sick, we need to know right away,’ ” said Dr. Ashok Rai, president and chief executive of Prevea Health.

Despite the obstacles, Dr. Rai said Prevea has made some headway. Earlier in the pandemic, the intensive care unit of one of its partner hospitals, HSHS St. Vincent, quickly filled when there were outbreaks in long-term care facilities. But since the treatments became available, workers have rushed to administer them at two assisted living centers, cutting down on the number of patients hospitalized.

“It’s palpable in our numbers right now,” Dr. Rai said.

Another challenge is finding the space and staff members to safely administer the treatments. In Rome, Ga., Floyd Medical Center repurposed several rooms in the ward for hospitalized Covid-19 patients for infusions. And with Floyd stretched thin on staffing, nurses have at times had to work late to give the treatments, said Dr. Daniel Valancius, who directs the hospital’s monoclonal antibody program.

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