St. Luke’s University Health Network infused its 500th COVID-19 outpatient with monoclonal antibodies; a treatment the network said has helped prevent all Lehigh Valley hospitals from being overwhelmed during the current surge, while allowing certain high-risk patients to recover quickly in the comfort of their own homes.
Granted emergency authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, monoclonal antibodies block the virus’ attachment and entry into human cells. Infusion has been found to be particularly effective in preventing the need for hospitalization in select, higher-risk patients, including those who are 65 or older and whose infection, identified early, does not yet require supplemental oxygen.
Joe Kitchell, a part-time paramedic in New Jersey, happily said he’s proof-positive that the BAM monoclonal antibody works.
“I feel great,” he said recently, “and lucky to have gotten the treatment.”
Kitchell, 52, came down with COVID symptoms on Christmas Day.
His fever, cough, headache and body aches alerted the veteran first responder that he was COVID-sick, and a test confirmed that two days later.
Within less than a week, through his web of professional work connections in the medical field, Kitchell received an infusion of the Eli Lilly monoclonal antibodies at the St. Luke’s Easton Campus. By the following morning he was already feeling better, with increased energy but still with a slight cough due to his asthma.
The Bethlehem Township resident is now back to transporting patients to St. Luke’s Easton for treatment of various illness and injuries—including many who are critically ill with COVID.
Kitchell said he’s grateful to St. Luke’s and his friends in the medical field who encouraged him and arranged for his monoclonal antibody infusion.
“I think it’s a great treatment and I give St. Luke’s a lot of credit for opening infusion centers in the community,” he said.
St. Luke’s began using monoclonal antibodies, which received emergency use authorization from the FDA, just before Thanksgiving in its Easton and Warren, N.J., facilities.
Allentown resident Wilda Cortez-Sanchez was back to cooking and cleaning just a few days after having her treatment with the Lilly antibody at St. Luke’s Easton in early January. Her fever was gone and her energy and appetite along with her senses of smell and taste had returned.
“I feel very good. The virus is gone,” said Cortez-Sanchez, whose mother and husband also contracted the illness.
Her primary care physician, Pavel Terreros, MD, referred her to the hospital’s infusion center for the treatment, like he has with more than 20 other patients from his downtown Allentown office.
“Everyone who had the infusion improved within 24 to 48 hours after treatment and no one was hospitalized,” he said. “It’s really working!”
Infectious disease specialist Peter Ender, MD, who helps run the COVID-19 treatment programs at SLUHN, said “monoclonal antibodies are an important outpatient therapy that we know has benefit in keeping people out of the hospital.”
St. Luke’s is proud to have made such an important weapon in the fight against COVID-19 accessible to residents of the Lehigh Valley.
Note: This local health content is brought to you in partnership with St. Luke’s University Health Network.