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Baltimore City Convention Center opens antibody ‘infusion center’ to treat most at-risk coronavirus patients

Some patients in the outpatient clinic at the Baltimore City Convention Center’s field hospital have started receiving bamlanivimab, an experimental antibody that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized to treat those most at risk of developing serious illness due to the coronavirus, according to the University of Maryland Medical System’s website.

People who are experiencing mild or moderate symptoms of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, and have certain pre-existing conditions, may qualify for the drug, which has received the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization. It has not been approved by the federal agency, but it has been shown in clinical trials to reduce the chances of hospitalization in patients most at risk of severe disease progression, according to the FDA.

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Physicians can now refer patients to receive the antibody treatment at the convention center’s “Infusion Center.” Patients will be prioritized based on how long they’ve been experiencing symptoms due to the limited available allotments of the drug. If there’s not enough supply, a lottery system will be applied.

The FDA authorized bamlanivimab for emergency use Nov. 9 based on promising trial outcomes and participants’ moderate reported side effects. Only 3% of those who received an IV infusion of the drug visited the emergency room later, compared to 10% of those in the placebo group of the clinical trial, the drug maker Eli Lilly and Co. reported.

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The federal government has expedited a range of medications, equipment and treatment options to help mitigate COVID-19 as cases continue to ravage the United States and the death toll ticks upward. The U.S. has seen more than 250,000 individuals die from the infectious disease, including more than 4,300 in Maryland. More than 88,000 people are hospitalized across the country, a new record, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

Bamlanivimab is not authorized for those who are already hospitalized or being treated with oxygen therapy. Those with diabetes, kidney disease, immunosuppressive diseases or taking immunosuppressive medications have been identified as potential candidates for the drug. Kids 12 or older also may be eligible.

The drug is a monoclonal antibody, or laboratory-engineered molecules designed to serve as substitute antibodies that can enhance or mimic the immune system’s attack on foreign cells. Antibodies typically help defend the body from sicknesses such as the regular flu, but seem to work best at the earliest stages of illness.

Earlier this week, The New York Times reported that the experimental antibody therapy doctors treated President Donald Trump with while he was hospitalized for the coronavirus in October also has been authorized for emergency use. The two-drug cocktail of Casirivimab and Imdevimab, made by the company Regeneron, was given the designation on Saturday, with similar use guidelines as bamlanivimab.

The convention center, repurposed into a field hospital and COVID-19 testing site last spring, operates under the supervision of the University of Maryland Medical System.

Representatives of the system did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

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