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Caldwell UNC Health Care credits monoclonal antibodies for freeing up beds

The Lenoir-based hospital estimates monoclonal antibodies prevented dozens of COVID-19 patients from ending up in the ICU or dying from complications.

HUDSON, N.C. — Caldwell UNC Health Care is crediting monoclonal antibody treatments for preventing a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations and saving the lives of patients.

In January, the Lenoir-based hospital hosted a Samaritan's Purse field hospital in its parking lot after five medical centers in the foothills, including Caldwell UNC Health Care, needed more beds for patients.

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Dr. David Lowry, the chief medical officer for Caldwell UNC Health Care, said monoclonal antibodies are outpatient treatments used for COVID-19 patients who aren't sick enough to be in the hospital, but who are at high risk of developing worsening symptoms.

"They're similar to taking a wad of chewing gum and throwing it in the spokes of a bicycle," Lowry explained. "It kind of gums up the virus so it can't attach to human cells and cause disease."

He said since November 2020, they've given more than 1,600 doses, with 1,100 doses being prescribed since August, and he estimated the treatments prevented dozens of people from being hospitalized.

"For example, this morning, we have about 29 or 30 patients with COVID-19 in the hospital," Lowry said. "I think that had we not been giving monoclonals, that number might be 40 or 43, 44. [It's] certainly something that would really stretch us in terms of bed capacity and ability to deliver care."

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He said monoclonal antibodies are most effective when they're prescribed early in the virus' progression.

"It's important for people to get tested as soon as they develop symptoms," Lowry said.

He added it's also just as important to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Contact Brandon Golder at bgoldner@wcnc.com and follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.