A Severance woman is among the first COVID-19 patients in Northern Colorado to receive a new experimental treatment that might lessen the severity of the illness in high-risk people and keep them out of the hospital.
Lindsey Junglas received one of 650 doses of bamlanivimab allocated to UCHealth after testing positive for COVID-19. Poudre Valley Hospital received 150 doses of the health system’s allocation, UCHealth spokesperson Kelly Tracer said.
As of Tuesday morning, UCHealth had used about 20 of the 650 doses it received.
Banner Health delivered its first three doses to patients at North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley on Friday.
Bamlanivimab, manufactured by Eli Lilly, is a monoclonal antibody that scientists hope will lower the viral load of the coronavirus and give an infected person’s immune system time to make its own antibodies. People chosen for the antibody treatment get one outpatient IV treatment.
Banner and UCHealth both received limited supplies of the drug for use at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley, University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, Memorial Hospital Central in Colorado Springs and Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs.
“This is a great opportunity to give more hope for people that they will get through their illness safely,” said Dr. Steven Loecke, chief medical officer for Banner in Northern Colorado, in a statement.
Allocations were made to states based on population and COVID-19 cases, and each state allocated the doses to hospitals.
“We are not in control of when or if we will receive additional supply once we have used the 650 doses we’ve been allotted,” Tracer said.
Banner hopes to expand the treatment to McKee Medical Center in Loveland soon, spokesperson Sara Quale said.
Bamlanivimab is a potential option for people who have had mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 and who are at high risk of becoming very sick from the virus. It should be administered as soon as possible after a positive COVID-19 test and within 10 days of the onset of symptoms, according to Eli Lilly.
Potential recipients include the elderly or those with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes or chronic kidney disease. It’s also an option for certain pediatric patients who are more than 12 years old.
Junglas has asthma and other underlying conditions, so her doctor at UCHealth Primary Care in Timnath determined she was eligible to be entered into a lottery that randomly identifies patients to receive the drug.
Junglas was selected and received the IV treatment the next day as an outpatient at Poudre Valley Hospital. Her story was shared in a UCHealth news release about the treatment.
“It is worth a shot,” she said in the release. “There is nothing scarier than seeing that ‘COVID detected’ test result come back — especially if you have underlying issues.”
According to the release, Junglas had developed some nasal congestion on Nov. 24 but was otherwise fine for four days. “No fever. No aches. No nothing,” she said.
Five days later, she woke up with a dry cough and decided to get tested. Her results came back positive for COVID-19, and the symptoms progressed very quickly after that.
The morning after her bamlanivimab treatment, Junglas said she was already feeling a bit better. Her congestion improved dramatically and her cough loosened so she could get begin clearing her lungs. “I don’t know if it is the placebo effect or not, but I do feel a little bit better,” Junglas said in the release.” My husband even said I look better today than yesterday.”
Colorado has faced record hospitalizations for COVID-19 recently as the state, including Larimer County, endures the latest surge of the coronavirus.
As of Wednesday, there were 99 COVID-19 patients in Larimer County hospitals and 79% of the county’s intensive care units were in use, according to the county health department.
Andrew Harmon, UCHealth’s interim director of pharmacy services in Northern Colorado, said bamlanivimab is another tool providers can use to combat COVID-19.
“The interesting thing about this one is that it aims to help patients who are coping with this disease from home,” Harmon said in the news release. “The whole goal is to keep them out of the hospital.”
The treatment is not authorized for patients who are already hospitalized with COVID-19 or who require oxygen therapy due to the virus.
Bamlanivimab received emergency use authorization from the FDA last month.
“This antibody treatment is still being studied, and there’s a lot that remains unknown about its effectiveness,” Dr. Michelle Barron, senior medical director for infection prevention at UCHealth, said in the news release. “If we can lessen the severity of illness and keep people out of the hospital, those are beds we can use for other patients with more acute needs.”
Pat Ferrier is a senior reporter covering business, health care and growth issues in Northern Colorado. Contact her at email@example.com. Please support her work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a subscription today.