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UVA Health changing treatment plans for new COVID-19 variant

University of Virginia doctors are trying to get their hands on what looks to be the only effective treatment for the omicron variant.
Published: Dec. 21, 2021 at 7:18 PM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - University of Virginia doctors are trying to get their hands on what looks to be the only effective treatment for the omicron variant of COVID-19.

There are concerns that when omicron comes to Charlottesville there may not be enough treatment to help everyone.

“Our best strategy for keeping patients out of the hospital is becoming less effective,” Dr. Patrick Jackson with UVA Health said.

That best strategy was monoclonal antibodies – proteins made in a lab to mimic your body’s natural antibodies, and target COVID. It is usually given in an IV, or a shot.

“These are really our only effective drugs that are able to get to patients early on the course of COVID-19 to help prevent them from getting too sick,” Jackson said.

Doctors are now less and less able to rely on them, and the solution is still up in the air.

“Of the three monoclonal antibody drugs that are available in the United States, two of them are totally ineffective against the omicron variant,” Jackson said. “So everyone’s going to be after the one remaining drug called the Sotrovimab.”

Right now, there is a limited supply of Sotrovimab, and UVA Health does not have any of it. They say previously, they had only been using the other two drugs because they worked perfectly fine with other variants and they did not have any issues. Omicron is causing the to change their current treatment plans.

“We are going to be talking about how to get all of these drugs come from the Virginia Department of Health, and VDH does have all of these drugs, we can get shipments,” Jackson said.

As omicron spreads everywhere, it may be harder for UVA health to get its hands on the only working drug, because Dr. Patrick Jackson says the whole country is going to be wanting it, and Omicron is worse in other states right now. This means those places are already asking for it.

“Unfortunately, these all fundamentally are purchased by the federal government and the U.S. government says they have about 55,000 doses for December for the United States,” Jackson said. “So you can kind of do the math on that. And that’s going to be quite tight for us.”

Dr. Patrick Jackson also says people who are not vaccinated, and using this drug as a substitute or excuse not to get a shot, are not going to be able to do that anymore.

“These drugs are primarily for the for high-risk folks, people who have, you know, potential to have bad outcomes from COVID-19,” Jackson said. “I think the lack of availability will mean that some people who we might be able to keep out of the hospital will end up getting sicker because of a lack of treatment.”

Dr. Patrick Jackson says this drug was also previously used with high risk patients who were exposed to COVID-19. He says they could take it post-exposure to limit the effects or symptoms the virus would then have on them if/when they got it.

Now, since the supply is so small and the demand is so high with Omicron, he says the Virginia Department of Health is limiting the use of it and not allowing it to be used for post-exposure help anymore. The impacts of this potential shortage are already showing.

On the horizon, Dr. Patrick Jackson says some of the pills being developed and seeking approval now, like Pfizer’s, could be an alternative form of treatment but it is still too early to tell.

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