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UnityPoint provides emergency use treatment for COVID-19

T-R PHOTO BY MIKE DONAHEY Pictured is a portion of the UnityPoint Health-Marshalltown Southside campus near the intersection of Highway 30 and Highway 14.

Before the Moderna COVID-19 vaccines began getting administered on Wednesday, UnityPoint — Marshalltown began using a new treatment for patients.

Jaime Hooley, physician assistant with the Marshalltown hospital, said 20 patients thus far have received the Bam — Bamlanivimab — treatment.

“Our patients have had positive responses to the treatment, typically showing an improvement in symptoms within two to three days,” she said. “Initial evidence is that Bam therapy can be very beneficial in preventing severe cases of COVID-19.”

The UnityPoint Health system received a limited supply of Bam from the federal government around Nov. 20, and providers began using it a few days after that.

It was quick work after the United States Food and Drug Administration approved an emergency use authorization for Bam on Nov. 9. Bamlanivimab has not been authorized for patients who require oxygen therapy.

Hooley said Bam is given in outpatient scenarios to those experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or those who have tested positive for the virus and consider themselves high-risk. Patients must undergo a screening through UnityPoint Health.

“It’s important to note that COVID-19 inpatients do not qualify for this treatment option,” she said.

Bam is a monoclonal antibody offered to select high-risk individuals suffering from the effects of COVID-19, Hooley said. The antibodies are laboratory-made proteins which mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off harmful antigens such as viruses.

While the safety and effectiveness of this therapy continues to be evaluated, Bam was shown in clinical trials to reduce COVID-19-related hospitalization or emergency room visits in high-risk patients within 28 days after receiving the treatment.

After a doctor has determined the use of Bam is appropriate for a patient, consent and education are provided. Orders are then sent to the infusion nurse at the hospital who schedules an infusion with the patient.

“The infusion takes approximately two and a half hours, and the patient goes home that day,” Hooley said. “It is a one-time infusion.”

She said recipients could have allergic reactions.

“This is not any greater than other frequently used medications,” Hooley said. “Otherwise, potential side effects are mostly from the injection itself, including pain at the injection site, bleeding, bruising and soreness. There are still ongoing studies about possible side effects and risks.”

UnityPoint – Marshalltown also uses convalescent plasma, which is another form of antibody treatment, and Remdesivir, an anti-viral medication, for COVID-19 treatment.

While residents of Marshalltown wait for more COVID-19 vaccines to arrive and treatments are utilized, Hooley said the previous recommendations are still encourage

“It will be a while yet before the community receives vaccines, so all the things we’ve used to date will continue to play a role until we’re past this pandemic,” she said. “That means continuing to use treatments like Bam and convalescent plasma to alleviate symptoms, and it also means continuing to slow the spread of disease through masking, social distancing and washing hands.”

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Contact Lana Bradstream at

lbradstream@timesrepublican.com.

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