New COVID-19 drug in UAE can save patients from hospitalisation

The treatment cannot be used for patients who are already admitted in the hospital for Covid-19

  
A member of medical staff wearing protective equipment works in the intensive care unit (ICU), amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at the Cleveland Clinic hospital in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, April 20, 2020.

A member of medical staff wearing protective equipment works in the intensive care unit (ICU), amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at the Cleveland Clinic hospital in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, April 20, 2020.

REUTERS/Christopher Pike

A hospital in Ras Al Khaimah has introduced an antibody treatment for Covid that could ‘greatly reduce’ a patient’s risk of complications from the infection. It is reported to be effective in halting the progression of the disease, saving patients from hospitalisation.

RAK Hospital is now using this drug called Bamlanivimab, an injection that neutralises the virus and has shown to be safe and effective during the trials. The research so far shows that for certain people, taking this drug may help limit the amount of virus in the body.

Bamlanivimab has been approved by the UAE's Ministry of Health and Prevention, the hospital has confirmed. It has also been authorised for emergency use by the US’ Food and Drug Administration to treat mild to moderate symptoms in Covid-positive adults who are not yet hospitalised but at high risk of developing severe symptoms. These include seniors who are 65 years of age or older and those who have certain chronic medical conditions, such as obesity, kidney disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or even asthma.

It is the first drug to be approved that was designed specifically against the new coronavirus; however, it is not for people who are already in the hospital because of Covid-19 symptoms.

Explaining how the new treatment works, Dr Jean Marc Gauer, CEO of RAK Hospital, said: “Bamlanivimab is a synthetic antibody treatment against Covid-19 developed by Eli Lilly that neutralises the virus. Normally, the patient’s immune system produces antibodies when there is a virus in the body, but this takes time and the patient can develop severe symptoms during the immune response. The medication consists of antibodies similar to the antibodies of patients who recovered from the disease, thereby allowing an immediate response to the virus and avoid severe disease.”

The patient needs to get the drug only once via an intravenous infusion, Dr Gauer said. “This means that a nurse will put a small needle in your arm to give you the drug slowly over one hour. Your healthcare provider will determine the duration of your infusion and the treatment has to be given in a hospital setting. One will also need at least an hour of observation after the infusion.”

Dr Gauer clarified that this therapy is not for everyone, and healthcare professionals will still have to check a Covid patient’s condition. “It is not suitable for patients with low oxygen saturation (SpO2 <93%), or respiratory rate greater than 30 per minute, or heart rate greater than 125 per minute, or the ones who require hospital admission. Pregnant women are also not the candidates,” he added.

Dr Raza Siddiqui, executive director of RAK Hospital, commented: “RAK Hospital is always at the forefront of medical excellence and has therefore taken a very active approach in fighting the pandemic since its onset. This is one more example of our initiative and commitment to offering the best possible care to the community and supporting the government’s efforts.”

Creating awareness about the drug, RAK Hospital posted on their social media handles: “So if you are above 18 years of age and have tested positive for Covid-19 and you are anxious to recover fast, wishing you do not need to be admitted to the intensive care unit or advanced care like ventilation or oxygen, this treatment could be an option for you.”

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