Central Indiana hospitals running low on COVID treatments, limiting who qualifies for them

Coronavirus

INDIANAPOLIS — Statewide COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to surpass previous all-time highs, and area hospitals here in central Indiana say they are running low on the life-saving treatments that prevent severe illness.

Two of the nation’s three manufacturers of monoclonal antibody treatments, Eli Lilly and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, said their treatments are no longer effective against the new omicron variant.

“The state health department has told us that, here in Indiana, at least 80% of our COVID cases are omicron,” said Dr. Amy Beth Kressel, Medical Director of Infection Prevention & Antimicrobial Stewardship at Eskenazi Health. “So we are down to that one monoclonal antibody that is in short supply.”

This set back in supply means area hospitals are now forced to restrict who is eligible to receive the life-saving treatment.

At Eskenazi Health – that means those who are immunocompromised and those above the age of 75 get priority.

“We are prioritizing the highest risk patients,” said Dr. Kressel. “So patients who are at highest risk of getting worse and needing hospitalization will get the medicines.”

 At Franciscan Health – the same groups are prioritized, but doctors are also including pregnant women, the unvaccinated, and the under-vaccinated to their priority list.

“The landscape has changed dramatically just in the last two to three weeks as we’ve gone from no omicron to almost all omicron,” said Dr. Christopher Doehring, VP of Medical Affairs at Franciscan Health Central Indiana.

While monoclonal antibodies are in short supply, Dr. Doehring said there are other COVID-19 treatment options.

In recent months, both Pfizer and Merck have been granted emergency use authorization for their oral treatment pills. However, doctors said manufacturing has not yet caught up with initial demand.

Dr. Robin Ledyard, Chief Medical Officer at Community Health Network, said her health system is also beginning to use remdesivir, an antiviral pill, as an outpatient treatment.

“Recently there was really good data to show that three days of remdesivir in the outpatient setting can keep people out of the hospital or keep them from dying,” said Dr. Ledyard.

Dr. Ledyard said using remdesivir as an outpatient therapy requires three consecutive day treatment.

“We won’t feel comfortable that you’ve had that full treatment unless you come all three days for your infusion. It’s not a stay in the hospital. You have the infusion, you go home, and come back. But I know that that can be really hard for patients,” said Dr. Ledyard.

All doctors we spoke to said they do not know when larger shipments will come, but they stress there are still treatments for those who need it most. Still, most treatments can only be given within a small window following initial infection.

“The focus can’t only be on what we don’t have,” said Dr. Kressel. “There are other things we can do to help you so just try to get tested. Try to call your your primary care provider and there may be other things we can do for you.”

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