The first dose of the medication, Eli Lilly’s Bamlanivimab, was administered to a Monument Health patient on Nov. 17. To date, more than a dozen patients have received the treatment.
Bamlanivimab is one of several medications in development known as monoclonal antibodies. They are laboratory-made proteins designed to block the COVID-19 virus from attaching to cells in the human body. Pharmaceutical manufacturers Eli Lilly and Regeneron have been doing investigational trials of monoclonal antibodies, and early results were promising. Both companies filed for emergency use authorization for their treatments.
A short time later the FDA and other state and federal agencies advised health care systems to prepare to administer the new infusion medications.
“We had about a two-weeks heads up that this could be coming,” said Brandi Tackett, Director of Clinical Innovations and Rapid City Hospital Infusion Therapy. “We’re excited that we were given the opportunity to offer this new treatment to COVID-19 patients in western South Dakota, so we moved as quickly as possible to make it happen.”
Monument Health’s Infusion Plus, on the west end of the Rapid City Hospital campus, and the John T. Vucurevich Cancer Care Institute, on the east end, both offer infusion treatments. However those patients are extremely immunocompromised. To keep them safe, Tackett and her team had to find a place where COVID-19 infusion could be done in isolation from other infusion treatments.
In about a week and a half, they turned a former office space at the far west end of Infusion Plus into a fully functioning infusion clinic for COVID-19 patients. The space is completely separate from Infusion Plus, and it has its own outdoor entrance. The space will have reclining chairs, privacy curtains, infusion pumps and related equipment to treat up to four patients at a time.
On Nov. 9, Eli Lilly received emergency use authorization for Bamlanivimab. Two days later, the first 200 doses of Bamlanivimab arrived at Rapid City Hospital. Six days after that, the first Monument Health patient received the treatment.
The treatment is ideal for outpatients who are early in the course of their disease. They generally have mild to moderate symptoms but are at high risk for serious complications from COVID-19.
The medication is designed to be given as a single infusion treatment. Patients spend about 2.5 hours at an infusion center – including an hour receiving the medication intravenously and an hour of post-infusion monitoring.
Regeneron, the second company, has created a cocktail of two monoclonal antibodies. The FDA issued an emergency use authorization for Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody on Nov. 21, and Monument Health received their first shipment of the medication on Nov. 25.
Tackett said that the other Monument Health hospitals in Spearfish, Custer, Lead-Deadwood and Sturgis are preparing to offer COVID-19 infusions as well.