UCHealth is treating COVID-19 patients with new experimental drug

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AURORA, Colo. — UCHealth is treating COVID-19 patients with a new experimental antibody drug that will hopefully keep the most high-risk patients out of the hospital.

William Stanton, a Denver resident, received the treatment after testing positive for the virus in late November. He had immediate concerns about the virus because of his ongoing health issues.

“Initially it was a loss of sense of smell, that was the first thing I noticed; on the 23rd, I woke up congested,” Stanton said. “I am a diabetic, I also have asthma and I also have high-blood pressure.”

A nurse recommended Bamlanivimab from drug maker Eli Lilly.

“Within hours of the transfusion being done I could feel the congestion going away,” Stanton said.

UCHealth has a limited supply of 650 doses of Bamlanivimab. It is not a cure and is intended to reduce the severity of COVID-19.

“There are proteins on the surface this will latch on too and the idea is it will keep the virus from its factory, it tries to shut the virus down,” Dr. Michelle Barron, the senior medical director of infection prevention at UCHealth, told Denver7.

Bamlanivimab is given through an intravenous infusion in your arm over an hour. Doctors then monitor the patient for another hour to make sure they are responding well.

It’s only being given to patients within the first ten days of infection who meet strict criteria.

“This is really intended for people who are feeling sick — not asymptomatic — and have some other comorbidity that puts them in a higher risk for being in the hospital,” Dr. Barron said.

Stanton says the only side effect was he felt cold during the treatment. He is now only experiencing minor symptoms and believes the drug may have prevented him from ending up in the hospital.

“I feel great now,” Stanton said. “This is a scary thing, the nurse was telling me I could go within minutes from feeling OK to really bad, I feel fortunate to not have experienced that.”

Doctors are still evaluating how effective the drug is.

The outpatient treatment is available at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Memorial Hospital Central in Colorado Springs and Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs.

Anyone can ask their doctor for a referral to receive the treatment even if they are not within the UCHealth system.

UCHealth says because the drug is used to treat COVID-19, it should be covered by most insurance plans.