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Pharmacists help with COVID-19 treatment

PHARMACISTS ARE ARGUABLY one of the most accessible health care providers to the public, especially during pandemic times. Through the use of monoclonal antibody therapy, pharmacists are helping the health care field gain control over the COVID-19 virus that continually evolves over time. 

The University of Kentucky HealthCare Wellington Building in Lexington is operating a monoclonal antibody therapy clinic for patients of that health care system. There, a pharmacist can literally be the person who takes care of you the entire course of your stay. 

Monoclonal antibody therapy is a mixture of two separate antibodies designed to help decrease disease symptoms, hospitalization and death among high-risk COVID-19 patients. High-risk patients include those who are 65 and up or struggle with obesity, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, asthma and other medical conditions. In the United States, this therapy can be given to qualified patients either through intravenous infusion or a series of shots. 

For UK, a cocktail developed by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals is given through four shots administered under the skin at different spots on the patient’s body. 

When injections or infusions are given, the antibodies bind to and neutralize the virus, preventing the damage it causes. Using a cocktail of antibodies decreases the chance that a COVID-19 viral mutation will make the therapy less effective or altogether ineffective. 

Data has shown that the chance of high-risk patients being hospitalized, becoming sicker and dying decreases by 70% with monoclonal antibody treatment. 

There is excitement surrounding the decrease in overall hospitalization and death rates in already overrun medical centers. However, monoclonal antibody therapy is not a full substitute for a COVID-19 vaccination. The reality is that monoclonal antibody therapy is amazing—you should absolutely get it if you qualify. But it’s important to remember that it only lasts for approximately 90 days at the maximum. It’s not a permanent fix or substitute for vaccination. It’s an additional tool in our toolkit for fighting COVID. 

It is clear that COVID-19 is here to stay, so vaccination is key to gaining control over the pandemic. Let’s get people vaccinated and give them the best chance possible at developing only minimal symptoms so they don’t need hospitalization or ICU admission and so they don’t die.

GAVIN HOWINGTON, PharmD, is emergency medicine clinical pharmacy specialist at UK HealthCare and clinical assistant professor at the UK College of Pharmacy. 

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