Monoclonal antibodies show encouraging results in COVID-19 patients

Hyderabad: Monoclonal antibodies is the latest in the treatment to fight against COVID -19. The drug cocktail has gained enough traction from global media ever since it got administered on ex-US President Donald Trump but is it really a wonder drug? As AIG Hospitals started using this treatment, Dr. D Nageshwar Reddy, chairman, AIG hospital, demystified some of the most asked questions about it.

“The real-world evidence of these monoclonal antibodies is yet to be established, but the clinical studies published in peer-reviewed journals including the New England Journal of Medicine are encouraging as they have shown to reduce hospitalization or death by over 70%, including a drastic reduction in viral clearance. In this context, the timing and patient selection becomes extremely important,” he said, during a select media interaction.

“Patients over 65, obese patients, with uncontrolled diabetes, cardiovascular patients, those who are under immunosuppressants like Cancer patients are ideal candidates for this treatment. The timing also has to be appropriate where it needs to be given within three to seven days at max,” Dr. Reddy stated, adding that this can be given to patients above 55 if they have heart-related issues like hypertension.

He further added that within one week, this treatment can help patients become RT-PCR Negative. He however said that pregnant women are not supposed to be given this treatment as there isn’t enough safety data for this subset of patients. “There is also a possibility to explore the prophylactic usage of this combination especially among the high-exposure groups like healthcare workers,” Dr. Reddy explained.

Moreover, he also said that this to be highlighted that as per US FDA (regulations, as benefits of this antibody cocktail has not been observed in patients hospitalized due to COVID-19. “Moreover, if this combination is administered on patients requiring high-flow oxygen or mechanical ventilation, then the clinical outcomes can become worse,” he said.

Monoclonal antibodies bind to the spike proteins of the virus (S1 and S2) and thereby limiting its replication. Mutation in the virus can impact the effectiveness of this monoclonal antibodies’ treatment. Although the effectiveness against some of the variants have been proven, it is unclear as to how it will go against the double mutant B.1.617, the so-called Indian variant.

“At AIG, we are doing a major study where we are looking at its efficacy against the double mutant variant of the virus,” Dr. Reddy said. He further added, “This treatment has the potential to increase mutant variants and that is why irrational use of these antibodies’ cocktails should be absolutely discouraged.”

Once administered, patients should wait for at least three months before getting vaccinated. One of the most crucial aspects of the therapy is the cost factor especially in low-middle income countries like India, where the treatment cost is around INR 70,000. “Hospitals and physicians need to factor in this cost element for its judicial usage,” Dr. Reddy said.