Houston-area hospitals could run out of monoclonal antibody treatment against omicron: report

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Hospitals in Houston reportedly say they could run out of the antibody treatment sotrovimab within the next two weeks. 

Sotrovimab has been proven effective against the omicron variant of the coronavirus. 

The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) told Fox News on Saturday that its four-hospital network is “using sotrovimab with the patients who need it most and are waiting on the next shipment.”

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The Houston Chronicle reported Friday that Houston Methodist West Hospital has enough supply to meet demand until Jan. 13. 

Hospitals that are part of the Houston Methodist system have “enough sotromivab for now” and are “expecting another allocation possibly next week,” a representative told Fox News.

UTMB chief medical officer Dr. Gulshan Sharma told Fox News that the hospital system had “allocation prior to Christmas” and that it is “looking for the next allocation date early 2022.”

“Based on our current usage it could last for [the] next 10-14 days,” Sharma added.

Sharma told the Chronicle that the hospital system would likely replace the treatment with a three-day course of remdesivir.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement on Friday that the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) has requested additional allocations of sotrovimab from the federal government. 

“The agency also requested that the federal government continue to supply the State of Texas with Regeneron and bamlanivimab, monoclonal antibody treatments for other strains of COVID-19 that have also proven to help reduce hospitalizations across the state,” Abbott’s office wrote. 

“Detecting COVID-19 and preventing COVID-related hospitalizations are critical to our fight against this virus,” Abbott said in a statement. “While the Biden administration has cut supplies of monoclonal antibody treatments and testing kits when they are needed most, the State of Texas is urging the federal government to step up in this fight and provide the resources necessary to help protect Texans. Testing sites, additional medical staff, and continued shipments of therapeutics from the federal government will help us continue to save lives and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.” 

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In a Dec. 27 news release, the DSHS said that the federal government controls the distribution of monoclonal antibodies and that regional infusion centers in Austin, El Paso, Fort Worth, San Antonio and The Woodlands have exhausted their supplies of sotrovimab “due to the national shortage.” 

“They will not be able to offer it until federal authorities ship additional courses of sotrovimab to Texas in January. People who had appointments scheduled this week will be contacted directly and advised. Other monoclonal antibodies have not shown to be effective against the omicron variant, which now accounts for more than 90% of new cases. The infusion centers will continue to offer those antibodies as prescribed by health care providers for people diagnosed with a non-omicron case of COVID-19,” the department wrote, noting that two new oral antiviral drugs authorized last week by the U.S. Food and Administration (FDA) will be available soon, with an expected limited initial supply. 

Healthcare workers treat a patient infected with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas, U.S., December 29, 2020.

Healthcare workers treat a patient infected with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas, U.S., December 29, 2020.
(REUTERS/Callaghan O’Hare)

The federal government will also control their distribution.

A spokesperson at the DSHS told the Chronicle the state health agency would learn more about future monoclonal antibody allocations on Monday. 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said in a statement that supply of the drug is “extremely limited, and additional doses of the product will not be available until the week of January 3rd.”

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Monoclonal antibodies are critical tools for hospitals – though not a substitute for vaccination – and are intended for people who are at high-risk or symptomatic. 

Texas identified its first case of omicron on Dec. 6, and Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said last month that a Houston man is believed to have been the first American to die from the strain.

“The omicron variant of the COVID is extremely contagious,” Dr. David Persse told Fox 26. “We’re seeing the numbers go up rather dramatically.” 

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