How a COVID-19 antibody therapy being used in Austin may be expanded to help more people

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — COVID-19 patients with a high risk for complications or hospitalization can now get treatment at the state’s new antibody infusion center in partnership with local and county officials.

It opened Wednesday morning in east Austin’s Montopolis neighborhood.

A coordinator with the Capital Area Trauma Regional Advisory Council says they will be dispensing Regeneron and bamlanivimab, two types of monoclonal antibody therapies. He says both work the same way, but which a patient gets is dependent on supply from local hospitals.

Both therapies had clinical trials in Austin.

“My best friend’s mom just passed away yesterday from COVID,” said John Doucette, a Regeneron trial participant.

Like many others, his life has been touched by COVID-19, and the realtor is aware of his risk of infection.

“I’m around contractors and many of them do not wear masks,” Doucette said.

That’s part of why he’s participating in a trial for Regeneron. One form of the drug is already available as an IV infusion at the mobile medical center in east Austin.

“The sooner you get the medication, the better that is to try to help you suppress the COVID virus and not get sick and end up in the hospital,” explained Dr. Cynthia Brinson with Benchmark Research and Central Texas Clinical Research.

Brinson has worked on both Regeneron and bamlanivimab antibody treatments. Brinson says they’re now studying how the use of Regeneron may be expanded to use on people who aren’t sick and in multiple doses.

“Infusions that occur every month to see how they tolerate it and to see how safe it is and to see if it prevents getting infected with COVID,” she said.

That’s the research Doucette is taking part in. He says he receives about four shots in his stomach each month. His trial will last up to 11 months, and he is about halfway through.

So far, he says he hasn’t contracted the virus, yet. He hopes it’s a good sign for a drug that can prevent more deaths, like his best friend’s mom.

“Who knows, you know… it potentially could’ve saved her. We don’t know,” Doucette said.

In order to receive this treatment, all patients must first be referred to the infusion center by a doctor or hospital.

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