Minnesota will soon receive 2,400 doses of a new drug that through clinical trials has shown the ability to keep COVID-19 patients from being hospitalized.
The good news comes as Minnesota's healthcare systems are being flooded with people infected by the novel coronavirus. On Tuesday, the health department reported a record 1,669 COVID-19 patients in hospitals around the state, including 335 in intensive care.
Commissioner Jan Malcom said in an MPR radio interview Monday that the booming case volume seen in the last week cold lead to the hospital totals doubling or tripling in a matter of weeks.
The new drug, bamlanivimab, is being distributed nationwide by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The antibody therapy is only for children and adults who are at high risk for severe disease, and it's critical that the drug is taken as soon as possible after a positive test and within 10 days of developing symptoms.
Furthermore, it's only for people who aren't hospitalized but have mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms – and a person cannot be receiving oxygen therapy.
“To be able to use this treatment, people should get tested as soon as possible if they become ill and reach out to their health care provider quickly if they receive a positive test,” said Dr. Ruth Lynfield, state epidemiologist and medical director for the Minnesota Department of Health. “Supplies will be limited at this point, but this therapy provides an additional option to help limit the impacts of this serious disease.”
According to the health department, a recent study of bamlanivimab showed that high-risk patients with COVID-19 who took the drug wound up hospitalized or required a trip to an emergency room in just 3% of cases. That compares favorably to 10% of people involved in the study who received a placebo dose with no medicine in it being hospitalized or going to an ER.
The health department defines high risk children and adults as someone "12 years of age and older with mild to moderate symptoms" and weigh 88 pounds or more.
The most common side effects of bamlanivimab have been nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, headache, itching and vomiting, but only in 2-4% of people who took the drug. Allergic reactions are possible but uncommon, the health department said.