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When Dr. John Fleming, a Colorado Springs psychiatrist, came down with COVID-19 in December, a friend recommended he ask about getting a monoclonal antibody treatment to help him feel better.
Dr. Fleming is an M.D., but he couldn't just write himself a prescription for antibody therapy. “Yes, I am a doctor, but when I'm sick - like anyone else - I'm a patient, too. I was sick, I was sleeping a lot, I was confused, and I didn't really have my wits about me.”
Dr. Fleming had seen his primary care physician virtually, and he was watching his condition closely. Dr. Fleming says, “I was pretty sick, sleeping a lot, and while I was having some trouble with my oxygen levels; I wasn't anywhere close to needing to go to the hospital in my opinion, or in my doctor’s.”
But when a friend asked Dr. Fleming if he had asked about a monoclonal antibody therapy, he decided he would give it a shot. “I called them (my doctor’s office) immediately and got a hold of somebody, and they said yeah, it is available in Colorado Springs.”
There are two drugs currently under emergency use authorization from the FDA, and both are meant to keep people who have tested positive for COVID-19 from getting so sick they need to be hospitalized.
The way the system works right now is a doctor needs to contact the state of Colorado to see if their patient meets the criteria for monoclonal antibodies, and as it turned out, Dr. Fleming did.
He was able to schedule an appointment to get an IV infusion at UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central in Colorado Springs. Dr. Fleming recalls, “I got my infusion in the afternoon from 1 to 3 p.m., and by that evening I was starting to feel a little bit better. By the next morning, it was clear I was really beginning to get better. It took about another week to 10 days to really feel mostly recovered. The same day I received the Bamlanivimab I began feeling better and I'm sure that (the bamlanivimab) was it because I was only going downhill before that.”
The monoclonal antibody therapies have been extremely effective so far here in southern Colorado. Casey Peat, RN, is the manager of the outpatient infusion center at UCHealth Memorial. I spoke with Casey in early February. “The FDA approved the emergency use of Bamlanivimab in late November. Since then, UCHealth Memorial has administered a little over 60 infusions, and out of those 60 patients, two were admitted to the hospital about 20 days after their infusion. Their stay was very short, only a few days long, and they were both discharged.” As of March 3, the number of patients who have received the infusion at Memorial has grown to 69, and still, only the two she mentioned have needed to be hospitalized.
Dr. Fleming says he feels the infusion made a huge difference in his outcome. “I was certainly very worried. By the time I got the Bamlanivimab, which was 10 days in - with no sign of improving - that if something didn't change given maybe another week or so, I probably would have wound up in the hospital.”
In our next story, Dr. Fleming talks about when and if he can get a COVID vaccine after receiving Bamlanivimab and why it's important for patients to advocate for themselves and ask specific their doctor questions about what treatments might be an option.
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