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Clark County using $1.5M to expand monoclonal antibody therapy

Clark County will contribute $1.5 million in federal funds to expand monoclonal antibody therapy for high-risk COVID-19 patients in Southern Nevada, a treatment that officials say has proven effective in decreasing hospitalizations and progression of the disease.

University Medical Center, the county-owned hospital, has been providing the therapy to roughly 60 patients monthly at a clinic across the street from the hospital. It is open four hours every weekday.

But the aid authorized by the county commission on Tuesday will enable the clinic to accommodate about 420 patients a month, add staff and increase operations to 12 hours a day and seven days a week, according to UMC Chief Financial Officer Jennifer Wakem.

In clinical trials, monoclonal antibody therapy has shown to greatly reduce COVID-19 infections from becoming severe in high-risk patients and also significantly reduce the likelihood that patients will test positive after being exposed to the virus, according to Dr. Shadaba Asad, the medical director of infectious disease at UMC.

“The important thing to remember about this treatment is that it is effective in preventing hospitalization, illness and death, but it has to be administered in a very timely fashion,” Asad told commissioners, adding that it is most effective if given within 10 days after diagnosis or exposure.

The limited availability of outpatient centers that provide the treatment has been the main hindrance to administering the potentially life-saving treatment, she said.

Treatment recommended for high-risk patients

The move by county lawmakers follows a push spearheaded by commission Chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick to use as much as $10 million in federal American Rescue Plan dollars to fund clinics for COVID-19 treatment as officials confront the clear evidence that not everyone will get vaccinated.

Roughly 60 percent of residents in the county eligible for the vaccine have been completely immunized, according to the Southern Nevada Health District.

Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made proteins that can mimic an immune system’s ability to fight off harmful viruses and attach to the COVID-19 virus to prevent it from entering cells, Asad said.

The infusion treatment, which takes three hours, is recommended for those 12 years and older who have tested positive within 10 days and have certain risk factors including but not limited to age and being overweight, pregnant or immunocompromised, she said.

It is also recommended for individuals who are either unvaccinated or those with medical conditions that result in not mounting an adequate response to the vaccine. It can be particularly helpful for people exposed to the virus in institutional settings such as nursing homes, prisons and homeless facilities.

More than 300 served

UMC has provided the treatment to more than 300 patients thus far at its clinic, located at 2231 W. Charleston Blvd., and none have been hospitalized, according to spokesman Scott Kerbs, who said in a statement that the clinic is the state’s only outpatient facility dedicated to the therapy.

Kirkpatrick said the treatment will not cost patients anything. The federal funding will be used to reimburse UMC for any unreimbursed expenses of providing treatments through December 31, 2022.

Individuals must have a referral from a UMC health care provider, typically at a UMC Quick Care or UMC Primary Care location, to receive treatment. Hospital officials said they plan to partner with the health district to identify eligible patients.

“We’re going to be very strategic in making sure that we market to those patients that are being tested, for one, but also come back positive, to be able to make sure that they know this resource is available,” CEO Mason VanHouweling told the commission.

VanHouweling encouraged people to visit UMC’s website at UMCSN.com for more information. Call the hospital at 702-383-2000.

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.

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