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Antibody infusion therapy helping COVID-19 patients

Distributed by Eli Lilly & Company
Posted at 7:07 PM, Feb 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-03 19:07:44-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Eli Lilly has created a drug used for antibody infusion therapy and is partnering with local health systems to create infusion centers across the state.

“It was just amazing what it did for me,” said Chris Roark-Jones, who lives in Nashville. “I mean it was just like a miracle, like it was just shocking!”

At first, Roark-Jones says she was hesitant to try antibody infusion therapy, after being diagnosed with COVID-19. “I just always think gosh I hate to be a guinea pig,” she said.

But after receiving the relatively new treatment two weeks ago, she says her symptoms improved almost immediately. “Every single thing that was wrong with me: my sinuses cleared up, I mean it was just amazing,” said Roark-Jones. “I called it like a miracle. And it’s just too bad more people don’t know about it. My oxygen level within 24-48 hours after the IV went from 92 to 93 to 97 and 99.”

“It reduces hospitalization by 70% in this patient population,” said Janelle Sabo, Eli Lilly COVID-19 therapeutics platform leader.

Here's how it works: patients undergo an hour-long infusion of the Lilly drug Bamlanivimab. Different from the vaccine, where your body has to learn how to fight off the virus by building its own antibodies, this infusion therapy immediately gives patients the antibodies.

Where convalescent plasma uses actual antibodies from a recently recovered patient, this drug is artificially scaled to use the most potent antibody known to neutralize the virus, allowing your immune system to recover quicker. “Ideal individuals for COVID-19 therapeutics whether it’s Lilly’s or others are individuals who are recently diagnosed, are within 10 days of symptom onset, if they’re at high-risk for either hospitalization or death,” said Sabo.

Sabo estimates more than 2,000 Hoosiers have had these therapeutics to date, after only being created about three months ago. It’s best for patients not yet sick enough to be hospitalized, with mild to moderate symptoms. Hospitals like IU Health have created their own space to isolate patients and streamline treatment for those who could benefit the most.

“Anyone who gets tested and has a positive result, we review the charts to see if they’re potentially eligible for treatment,” said Dr. Andrew O’Brien, IU Health infusion center medical director. “If they are, then we will reach out to them to see if they’re interested.”

“I tell all my friends,” said Roark-Jones. “I tell anybody that will listen to me. I said, if you know anybody, let them know.” Recovered patients like Roark-Jones now want to get the word out about infusion therapy treatment, saying, you don’t have to suffer. “If you’re at any risk at all, I would not walk, but run, to get that IV,” she said.

Lilly has also partnered with Community Health Network, Eskenazi Health and Franscican Health to set up an infusion enter and increase access across the state.

COVID-19 Infusion Center Locations:

• Northern Indiana: COVID Infusion Center 60205 Bodnar Blvd. Mishawaka, IN 46544

• Central Indiana: Neurodiagnostic Center 5435 East 16th Street, 4th floor, Indianapolis, IN 46218

• Southern Indiana: Ascension St. Vincent Evansville 100 St Mary’s Epworth Crossing Newburgh Evansville IN 47630