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Published January 13, 2022

Shortage Causes Trinity's Emergency Department to Suspend Monoclonal Antibody Program

Written by
The Dakotan
| The Dakotan
Trinity Hospital in Minot [Photo: Nicole DesRosier]
Trinity Hospital in Minot [Photo: Nicole DesRosier]

MINOT—Trinity Health says a nationwide shortage of monoclonal antibodies has altered the way doctors are able to allocate the lifesaving treatment for COVID-19.

The Trinity Emergency/Trauma Center has suspended infusing patients in the ER; COVID-positive patients seeking oral antiviral medication or monoclonal antibody infusion therapy will need to obtain a referral for those treatments from their provider. Local supply of the infusion drugs will be allocated to patients based on their clinical indicators and other factors.  If a person hasn’t established a primary care provider, they can call 857-DR4U or 701-857-3748 for help.

Monoclonal antibody therapy is an infusion treatment for people with mild to moderate COVID-19 who are deemed to be at high risk for complications. If administered early, it’s been shown to prevent serious illness and the need for hospital care. Oral antiviral medications have recently gained emergency use authorization from the FDA for use in certain circumstances.

Casmiar Nwaigwe, MD, Trinity’s infectious disease specialist, says active cases of COVID-19 have spiked recently in the state, and he expects that trend to continue with the Omicron variant gaining a strong foothold. “The dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases across the U.S. and here in North Dakota has boosted demand for monoclonal antibodies and caused a shortage of what has proven to be life-saving treatment,” Dr. Nwaigwe said. “Because of the limited supply of these drugs, monoclonal antibody treatments will not be available for all patients who might otherwise benefit from them.” 

The federal government allocates these approved treatments to states based on case burden and utilization rates. The N.D. Department of Health then determines how the supplies will be distributed within the state. Last week, North Dakota received 51 doses of the drug Sotrovimab, found to be effective against the Omicron variant, and seven doses were allocated for Trinity Health, far fewer than what is needed. 

Dr. Nwaigwe says given the national and local shortage of these proven therapies, vaccination remains a person’s best bet against severe infection. “Clearly, patient demand has exceeded the available supply for these drugs in the short term, so the best way to prepare for the current surge is to be fully vaccinated and boosted to protect yourself against serious illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19,” Nwaigwe said. Vaccination appointments are available by calling Trinity’s hotline, 701-857-2515, or contact First District Health Unit in Minot for an appointment.

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