Hendrick 'pleased' with results of COVID infusion treatments

Steve Nash
Brownwood Bulletin
Hendrick Health provided this photo of some of the medication being prepared in Hendrick's main pharmacy in Abilene.

An estimated 200 to 300 COVID-19 patients in Brownwood have received antibody infusions — a treatment intended for those with early-onset and mild to moderate symptoms — at  Hendrick Health since late November.

Hendrick Health vice president Susan Greenwood, speaking to the media Friday on a Zoom call, said the FDA has given emergency use approval for the monoclonal antibody treatment. It is one-time, outpatient treatment intended for COVID patients who are at high risk for becoming seriously ill or hospitalized, and the goal is to prevent either from occurring, she said.

“It is a direct infusion of antibodies into the body,” Greenwood said. "The purpose of this is to help patients that have mild-to-moderate COVID-19 symptoms have antibodies into their system immediately."

She said while results are being studied, Hendrick is pleased with what it is seeing.

“What we’ve looking for is things to not happen,” Greenwood said. “So it’s a little bit hard to measure what doesn’t happen. We do believe that we’re seeing some positive results."

Greenwood said some patients have reported feeling better shortly after receiving the treatment, and very few infusion patients have gone on to require hospitalization.

"If we can save one admission, it’s worth it," she said.

Primary care physicians refer COVID-19 patients as infusion candidates, and the Hendrick Health infectious disease physician reviews the referrals, Greenwood said. If the patient can receive the treatment, the infusion clinic schedules an appointment. 

The state is providing the antibody and shipping it to the Brownwood and Abilene hospitals on a regular basis, Greenwood said. She said drug itself does not cost anything, but an administration fee is billed to insurance.

Greenwood said Hendrick Health opened infusion clinics in Abilene and Brownwood in late November, and the Brownwood clinic is located near the hospital. Patients can expect to spend about three hours at the clinic — an hour for patient history and preparation, an hour to receive the treatment and an hour for observation.

Greenwood provided a lengthy list of criteria for patient selection including:

• COVID-positive with mild symptoms, and within the first 10 days of the onset of symptoms. “The earlier the better,” Greenwood said.

• Not approved for patients who required hospitalization, who require the use of oxygen at home because of COVID, or who use oxygen at home for another condition and require an increase in oxygen because of COVID.

• Older than 12 years old and weigh at least 88 pounds.

• Be at high risk for severe COVID or hospitalization. High risk is defined as having a body mass index of 35 or higher, chronic kidney disease, diabetes and immunosuppressive diseases.

The Abilene hospital has the capacity of infusing 12 patients a day, and about the same in Brownwood, Greenwood said. She said the capacity can be increased if necessary.

“Referrals have slowed down this week,” Greenwood said. “We’re starting to see a little bit of a downturn, both in the percent of positivity in the community and in referrals. This is good timing because we don’t want the decline in referrals to be simply because patients or providers simply don’t know about it. It is available.” 

There is “certainly is a little bit of glimmer of hope out there,” Greenwood said. “I don’t want to downplay currently what’s going on. We are at 180 percent capacity in our ICU and we have  numerous COVID units open.

“It is a daily struggle for our providers. It is still an extreme situation and we are desperately trying to assist with vaccinations in our region. But there is a little glimmer of hope that we are getting some vaccine … but don’t let up because we still have a long way to go.”

Those who test positive after a screening should make sure their primary care physicians are aware so a referral process can begin, Greenwood said.

She said the referral fax number for physicians is 325-670-3733.