Monoclonal Antibody treatments scarce after two versions found to be ineffective against Omicron

Monoclonal antibodies
Posted at 6:09 PM, Dec 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-29 10:58:05-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Physicians Urgent Care in Brentwood was one of the many outpatient clinics, packed with patients Tuesday. "It’s been chaos -- is the pretty much only word I can use for it," said Physicians Associate Austin Marlow.

Marlow says of the many patients he's seen this week, almost all have tested positive for COVID. "We’re doing the best we can, obviously," said Marlow.

Had it been last week, they might have prescribed a monoclonal antibody treatment. This week, they're about to run out.

"I think it’s become a national problem," said Dr. Karen Bloch, Director of the Antibody Clinic at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. She says the treatments are so scarce because the Tennessee Department of Health has stopped distributing two of the three versions of the treatment because they aren't effective against the Omicron variant. "Omicron has a number of mutations in the spike protein and the other two antibody combinations are active against areas that have mutated so they don’t bind very well," said Bloch.

The one version that is effective, Glaxo-Smith-Kline's Sotrovimab, is in short supply. "It worries me because previously we were able to offer antibody infusions to essentially anyone who qualified but as the supply has really tightened up, we’ve had to restrict our criteria significantly," said Dr. Bloch.

Thankfully, there are other treatments that could potentially fill the void. For one, Vanderbilt University helped develop Evushield, a preventative antibody treatment used for patients that are immuno-compromised, appears to still be effective against Omicron. Then, there's an antiviral pill from Pfizer.

"Studies look really good with the Pfizer pill - Paxlovid. I’m assuming it’s going to be a couple weeks before we get our hands on that, probably go into the pharmacies first and hopefully we’ll be able to prescribe for that," said Marlow.

The two other versions of antibody treatments, made by Eli Lilly and Regeneron, are being stockpiled in case they are still effective against future COVID-19 variants.