Obstacles to effectively treat omicron variant

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JERMYN, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — One of the most popular and effective treatments of COVID-19 is monoclonal antibody infusion therapy.

It’s worked well against COVID and several of its variants and now it’s being evaluated against the fast-spreading omicron variant. Three monoclonal treatment options are currently authorized in the U.S. to help treat patients and keep them out of overcrowded hospitals.

But data suggests a couple of monoclonal treatment options aren’t stacking up very well against omicron. The Wright Center for Community Health Mid Valley uses all three monoclonal antibody options to treat COVID-19 patients at high risk of developing severe disease. The treatment which emerged in 2020 has undergone some tweaking.

“Since the delta variant and even prior to that, it was converted actually to two separate cocktail antibodies in each therapy, so no matter which product you use, they have more than one antibody,” Jignesh Sheth, MD, Chief Medical Officer, The Wright Center for Community Health said.

But emerging data indicates two of the three monoclonal antibody options may come up short against omicron.

“Sotromivab has the data to suggest that it’s effective against the omicron variant. The others have not been tested or they have not given us convincing data that it does work,” Dr. Sheth said.

To make matters worse, sotromivab is in short supply.

“If you have access to sotromivab and you have a confirmed omicron variant patient, use sotromivab because that is considered to have proven effectiveness against that variant,” Dr. Sheth said.

The CDC calls the omicron variant the current dominant strain of coronavirus with 73 percent of infections last week in the U.S. Dr. Sheth says omicron is very likely already in northeastern Pennsylvania.

“The problem, though, is patients that we see, they don’t have the identification, they don’t have the sequencing done for us to know for sure what variant they have,” Dr. Sheth said.

56-year-old Harold Jones of Old Forge was diagnosed with COVID-19 in October before the omicron variant surfaced. He received monoclonal antibody infusion therapy.

“I’d say the next day my symptoms pretty much subsided. I’ve been good since the day after,” Jones said.

Dr. Sheth says The Wright Center will continue its monoclonal antibody treatment during this omicron-dominant environment to keep as many patients as possible out of the hospital by following CDC guidance.

“Infuse the patient with whatever medicine is available,” Dr. Sheth said.

There is no indication how quickly supplies of sotromivab will be sufficiently beefed up. In the meantime, drug makers are trying to develop an omicron variant-specific treatment but between development and authorization, it will probably be another six months.

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