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North Dakota hospitals utilizing newly FDA-authorized COVID-19 treatment drug

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“Any treatment options that we have at all that can keep someone healthy and prevent them from getting very, very sick and even potentially pass away from COVID is a huge win,” Dr. Khalin Dendy, Internal Medicine Physician for Sanford Health said.

Within the past two weeks, several North Dakota hospitals have implemented treatment of the newly FDA-authorized experimental drug bamlanivimab, and doctors say they’re eager to see it put to work.

“The virus is shaped in a sphere with some spikes coming out of it and that’s the goal of this antibody is to work to bind those spikes and neutralize that virus,” Director of Pharmacy for Altru Health in Grand Forks, Erin Navarro said.

“We have not really had any good outpatient treatment until this and these two options allow us to give patients infusion in an outpatient setting within 10 days of symptom onset if they have higher risk features to worsen,” Dr. Dendy said.

The one-time treatment requires an hour of IV infusion, followed by an hour of observation before patients are sent on their way.

An emergency room physician says the treatment could help reduce the number of hospital beds currently occupied by hundreds of COVID patients.

“The goal is in my mind is to get these people treated and so they don’t have to get sent by ambulance, they don’t have to come and be admitted to the hospital, they don’t even have to come to the emergency room,” ER physician at CHI St. Alexius Health, Dr. Benji Kitagawa said.

Although there is optimism about the new treatment, doctors are making sure conversations with patients remain realistic.

“So they really understand that it’s really not a magic bullet, that there are still risks and having to understand the benefits versus the risks,” Dr. Kitagawa said.

Supply of the medication is being monitored, with new shipments coming in weekly.

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