WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – With COVID-19 case numbers surging over the past month, doctors in the Cape Fear region have been looking for more ways to treat coronavirus patients and prevent them from ending up in the hospital.
Wilmington Health and New Hanover Regional Medical Center have started using REGEN-COV, commonly referred to as Regeneron, to help reduce early COVID symptoms in at-risk patients to prevent cases from turning severe. Wilmington Health is prescribing the drug for some COVID-positive patients in high-risk groups, such as those 65 and older and people with immunosuppressive diseases.
“Regeneron is really meant only for mild-to-moderate cases,” said Dr. David Schultz, a hospitalist with Wilmington Health. “It’s to prevent people from getting worse and it’s studied in people who have high-risk, you know, in other words, we know certain people with COVID are at much higher risk of getting hospitalized or dying.”
Wednesday, Governor Roy Cooper (D-NC) signed an Executive Order to expand access for North Carolinians to receive monoclonal antibody treatments, like REGEN-COV, for COVID-19.
Schultz cites a study in which about 5,000 COVID patients were given REGEN-COV to help minimize symptoms. He says the drug helped to reduce the number of hospitalizations in that group by 70 percent.
“We’re trying to give it to the people early in their illness to keep them from getting sicker,” Schultz said.
According to Schultz, providers at Wilmington Health and New Hanover Regional started prescribing REGEN-COV about a month ago, but have been doing so more often due to the increase in the number of patients diagnosed with COVID-19.
“There are a few other treatments, one is an antiviral called Remdesivir, but the effects of them are not dramatic. So far, in studies, they have to be given to an appropriate patient at the appropriate time,” said Schultz.
Even with these treatments, Schultz says the best way to prevent against serious illness is to get vaccinated.
“We like to say the vaccine is kind of like an umbrella,” said Schultz. “It won’t keep you perfectly dry, but it will keep you from getting drenched, so the vaccines are really good at keeping people from getting super sick.”
Schultz holds an administrative position in the hospital, but knows the hardship families and medical workers have had to deal with watching patients and loved ones die from COVID-19 complications.
“This is really tough on all the medical people in the community because once people are really sick there’s a limited amount we can do about it, so we watched a lot of people die in the past year and I feel for everybody,” Schultz said.
Regeneron is not FDA approved, but was granted emergency use authorization by the FDA late last year.
The CDC has information on investigational therapeutics for patients with COVID-19.
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