Disclaimer: At UPMC HealthBeat, we strive to provide the most up-to-date facts in our stories when we publish them. We also make updates to our content as information changes. However, education about COVID-19 can shift quickly based on new data, emerging variants, or other factors. The information in this story was accurate as of its publish date. We also encourage you to visit other reliable websites for updated information, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and your state and local governments.
John Drewery was following all of the COVID-19 health guidelines, including social distancing and wearing a mask.
Then he went out with some of his friends one day in February. During that outing, he had his mask off and wasn’t practicing safe distancing for a short amount of time.
“I was speaking with friends who didn’t know it at the time but had COVID-19,” John says.
A few days later, John developed a cough. At first, he didn’t think much of it.
“I was coughing really bad but still didn’t think I had COVID until I heard my friend I was with tested positive,” he says.
That news caused John to get tested for COVID-19 himself, and he also tested positive.
But he knew he was a candidate for a promising COVID-19 treatment: monoclonal antibodies.
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‘I Was Really Happy’
Monoclonal antibodies act like a body’s naturally occurring antibodies in fighting disease. Scientists create them in the lab to target a specific disease-causing pathogen. When given as treatment, they help your body’s immune system fight off the disease.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued emergency use authorization (EUA) for monoclonal antibodies as a treatment for patients with mild or moderate COVID-19 who are at risk of the disease becoming severe.
Since receiving EUA, monoclonal antibodies have shown promise in reducing hospitalizations and deaths if you get the treatment soon after becoming sick. Outpatients who are 65 and older, or who are 12 and older with a medical condition that puts them at risk of COVID-19 complications, are eligible for the treatment. You must get the treatment within 10 days of your COVID-19 symptoms first appearing.
John learned about monoclonal antibody treatment when he was getting tested for COVID-19 in February.
“The person testing me actually said, ‘If you test positive, you [can] get the mAB treatment,'” John says. “I was really happy about that. I had a friend who didn’t get it and had a rough time with it.”
Because John is overweight and diabetic, and because it was soon after his COVID-19 diagnosis, his condition qualified him to receive monoclonal antibodies. He was able to schedule an appointment soon after his positive test.
‘Monoclonal Antibodies Prevented My Symptoms From Worsening’
John scheduled his monoclonal antibody appointment for a Sunday morning, two days after his positive test. He drove to a UPMC infusion center in Monroeville.
The monoclonal antibody process lasts two hours: one hour for the intravenous (IV) infusion and one hour for monitoring.
“Everyone was really nice and made it really comfortable for me,” John says.
After his treatment, John experienced chills and a fever. He called his doctor, who told him to rest and drink plenty of fluids. The fever soon went away.
Although he still had a lingering cough, John’s COVID-19 never became severe.
“I still feel monoclonal antibodies prevented my symptoms from worsening even more,” he says.
In March 2021, UPMC reported that monoclonal antibodies had significantly reduced the risk of hospitalization and death in our patients who had received the treatment.
“Our data show that monoclonal antibody treatments have kept our patients from COVID-19 from needing to be hospitalized, potentially sparing them from long COVID-related disabilities and even death,” says Erin McCreary, PharmD, Infectious Diseases pharmacist, UPMC.
Because of John’s medical conditions, he faced a risk of COVID-19 complications. He’s glad he was able to get the treatment.
“I do recommend they give the monoclonal antibodies to anybody and everybody,” he says. “I think if people get it earlier on, it would help minimize symptoms.”
UPMC provides monoclonal antibody treatment at more than 40 locations in our communities, including dedicated infusion centers and all of our hospital Emergency Departments. To date, we have treated nearly 3,000 patients with monoclonal antibodies.
For more information on monoclonal antibody treatment at UPMC, or to schedule an appointment, visit UPMC.com/AntibodyTreatment.
Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 800 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. We are dedicated to providing Life Changing Medicine to our communities.