State-operated infusion center opens in Anchorage to help combat COVID-19

The new monoclonal antibody treatments delivered by IV will be used in early treatment of COVID-19 patients
In addition to the statewide distribution of the monoclonal antibodies to health care and...
In addition to the statewide distribution of the monoclonal antibodies to health care and skilled nursing facilities, the State of Alaska has established a temporary, outpatient, state-run infusion center in Anchorage to provide another location for patients to receive the monoclonal antibodies(Scott Gross)
Published: Dec. 10, 2020 at 6:58 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - There’s a new weapon in the medical industry’s arsenal to help ward off COVID-19.

“Patients come in by doctor referral,” medical surge coordinator Gene Wiseman said. “Then an IV will be started and then they’ll get the infusion. The infusion lasts at least an hour.”

A section of the Alaska Airlines Center where beds were set up in case local hospitals became overrun with COVID-19 patients has been turned into the state operated infusion center.

“We’re starting small,” Wiseman said. “Starting with cohorts of five patients at a time and we can increase that to 10 to 15.”

With enough trained personnel and treatments on hand, the room could hold up to as many as 153 patients at one time.

“So really, what we see in the initial trials, the patients who had the most success in these trials are the ones who got it early,” clinical pharmacist for the State of Alaska Dr. Coleman Cutchins said. “So that’s why it’s exciting for me because this is the first drug, that has been authorized for outpatient use. The other drugs like remdesivir are for admitted patients, this is for patients not admitted.”

The treatment allows the medical world to get a better hold on the virus.

“They’re engineered the monoclonal antibody treatments to find that virus and attach to it,” Cutchins said. “That does one of two things, stops the virus from replicating, its been bound and can’t attach to your cells. It also helps your immune system identify that virus and say it’s bad I need to attack it.”

Cutchins says that early clinical trials have shown that for roughly every 10 to 20 patients treated in this way, there is the potential to keep one person out of the hospital.

Keeping more people out of the hospital and on a faster path to recovery is a huge break in the fight against the virus. As of now, once referred by a doctor, patients get the treatment free of charge.

“The drugs are being provided to all facilities at no charge by the federal government,” Cutchins said. “That will change at some point and then insurance should cover them if the patient meets criteria. Insurance companies should currently cover the cost of the infusion. For uninsured, the Anchorage infusion center is no cost to anyone but that will vary by location.”

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