As Sarasotans await the widespread availability of the Covid-19 vaccine, the disease remains a significant danger, especially for individuals with underlying health conditions. At the same time, Covid-19 patients currently account for more than 13 percent of hospitalizations at Sarasota County hospitals, according to the University of Minnesota’s Covid-19 Hospitalization Tracking Project.
But there are treatments available for Covid-19 patients before their condition becomes that severe—and even before they any develop symptoms at all.
Sarasota realtor Tina Biter and her husband had just returned from a trip visiting friends when those same friends called to tell her: They’d tested positive for Covid-19.
The Biters, who are both over 65, immediately got tested, and the next day they learned that they, too, were positive. The day after that, they had an appointment at a Sarasota Memorial Healthcare walk-in clinic on Bee Ridge Road to receive Eli Lilly’s bamlanivimab, one of two intravenous coronavirus antibody treatments, alongside Regeneron (President Trump famously received a Regeneron cocktail when he tested positive in October), approved for emergency use by the FDA. (Antibody therapy is also available locally through Doctors Hospital of Sarasota and Blake Medical Center.)
“The goal is to help those infected with Covid-19 in the early part of their illness who are at the highest risk to avoid more serious illness and hospitalization,” says Dr. Manuel Gordillo, medical director of SMH’s Infection Prevention and Control. “Our patients who have been able to receive these treatments early say they feel better, so that is incredibly promising.”
Due to limited supplies and because these treatments are still being studied, antibody therapy is currently reserved for patients who have been diagnosed with a mild-to-moderate case of Covid-19 within the previous 10 days, and who have a high risk for severe disease or hospitalization. According to a statement from SMH, “To be considered for [antibody therapy] treatment, patients must be referred by a physician, be 18 years or older, and meet criteria established by the FDA.”
Patients who are interested should talk to their doctor.
The Biters’ physician had arranged their appointment at the SMH clinic. The bamlanivimab infusion process takes approximately one hour, followed by a one-hour observation period. Per CDC guidelines, the Biters continued to quarantine for 10 days afterward.
“We never had any symptoms,” says Biter. “People were checking on us, and we would say, ‘We’re fine. Nothing’s going on. We’re just bored.’ If you find out you’re positive, the sooner you get this, most likely it’s going to work for you.”
For more information on Covid-19 treatments, visit the NIH Treatment Guidelines website.