Health Care

Vermont gets small shipment of experimental Covid drug; officials warn against its use

A technician hand-fills wells with a liquid for a research test on antibodies. Wikipedia photo

An experimental treatment for Covid-19 has been sent to all 50 states, and while Vermont got a small shipment, state officials are warning against its use.

Early scientific trials showed that the Bamlanivimab monoclonal antibody treatment could reduce hospitalization rates for the virus. The treatment uses laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off the virus. The drug is designed to block the virus’ attachment and entry into human cells. 

Vermont has received 40 doses of the drug, and is expected to receive 30 more by Dec. 1. 

Larger states with higher infection rates have received several thousand doses, as allocation of the drug has been based on total positive cases and hospitalizations in each state.

However, at Gov. Phil Scott’s twice-weekly press conference on Tuesday, Health Commissioner Mark Levine said the drug “unfortunately received unfavorable reviews” from both the National Institutes of Health and the Infectious Disease Society of America.

“The NIH felt that there was insufficient data to recommend for or against the use of this drug,” Levine said.

The drug is intended for Covid-19 patients who have mild or moderate cases and are at high-risk for hospitalization.

The antibody treatment received emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Nov. 9. The NIH said Tuesday that, despite that authorization, the drug should be used only for research trials.

“The Infectious Disease Society of America also suggested against routine use of this drug because of the low certainty of evidence at this time — though left that option, used in a shared decision-making fashion, weighing the uncertain benefits and the risk for adverse events,” Levine said.

The health commissioner also spoke Tuesday about a second experimental treatment, remdesivir, that has drawn attention in recent months. President Trump repeatedly touted its benefits throughout the spring and summer.

Late last week, the World Health Organization updated its guidelines, suggesting against the drug’s use, regardless of disease severity, unless better evidence is obtained for its effectiveness. The organization found no evidence that the drug has an impact on mortality rates, need for ventilation, or time until improvement.

“Practitioners in Vermont are now using this information and reevaluating their use of that drug,” Levine said.

Instead, as case counts remain high in Vermont, Levine and other state officials recommended social distancing, mask-wearing, and avoiding Thanksgiving gatherings to try to reduce infections and hospitalizations from the virus in coming weeks.

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Ellie French

About Ellie

Ellie French is a general assignment reporter and news assistant for VTDigger. She is a recent graduate of Boston University, where she interned for the Boston Business Journal and served as the editor-in-chief of The Daily Free Press, BU’s student newspaper. She is originally from Duluth, Minnesota.

Email: [email protected]

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