Doctors with a prominent Alabama medical group said Monday they are “very concerned” about a recent request from the federal government that the state reduce its orders of monoclonal antibodies, a life-saving Covid-19 treatment that the country has started to ration amid a large increase in demand in states with low vaccination rates.
A nurse enters a monoclonal antibody site, Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021, at C.B. Smith Park in Pembroke … [+] Pines. Numerous sites are open around the state offering monoclonal antibody treatment sold by Regeneron to people who have tested positive for COVID-19. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)
The Medical Association of the State of Alabama, a group that represents around 7,000 physicians across the state, said in a statement it is concerned the federal government “is taking steps to limit access” to the treatments, which have been shown to significantly reduce hospitalizations and deaths among coronavirus patients.
Physicians are “very concerned” about the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) request to the state given that Alabama’s hospitals are already “full and under tremendous stress,” said association President Dr. Aruna Arora.
She said the federal government should be helping “provide more of this treatment … not less,” and highlighted how it is critical to “save lives and keep COVID patients out of the hospital.”
Jeff Emerson, a spokesperson representing the group, told Forbes “calls have been made from the association to HHS” and the state’s congressional delegation has been alerted “to make sure they are aware of the physicians’ concerns.”
HHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Forbes.
228. That’s how many monoclonal antibody treatment sites there are across Alabama, one of a number of states that has been opening more locations as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have soared.
“Many patients who receive monoclonal antibody treatment report feeling better within 24 to 48 hours,” Arora said in the statement. “Monoclonal antibody treatment is not a substitute for COVID vaccinations. However, if someone does test positive for COVID-19, they should immediately talk to a physician and see if they qualify for monoclonal antibody treatment. It can be a life-saver.”
A senior official with the Department of Health and Human Services confirmed with Forbes that the agency has shifted its strategy for distributing monoclonal antibodies amid a massive uptick in demand. Seven states along the Gulf Coast, including Alabama, were using about 70% of the nation’s distribution and have been asked to reduce their orders of antibody treatments by about 30%, the official said. The official described this as a temporary change to ensure states will be able to get the treatment to patients who need it while the federal government continues “actively working to procure more products.”
Other states impacted by the HHS request are yet to express the same concern as Alabama health officials have. However, while denying the state has yet experienced reductions in its supply, a spokesperson for Tennessee’s Department of Health told Forbes in an email it has been seeing “critical delays” as the federal government is taking more time to review each order. “Many of our sites have experienced tremendous difficulty in receiving the shipments in a timely manner,” said Sarah Tanksley.