Ascension Via Christi expands Regeneron therapy

On April 23, Ascension Via Christi St. Francis began offering Regeneron, a monoclonal antibody infusion therapy for early treatment of COVID-19-positive patients at high-risk for becoming severely ill.

Its by-appointment monoclonal infusion therapy clinic moved last week to a large and easily accessible space with a separate entrance to prevent exposure to other patients. The new space will allow it to triple the number of patients who can be infused at the same time.

The entire process, which does require a physician referral, takes less than two hours, including check-in, approximately 20 minutes of infusion, an hour-long observation period and discharge.

Monoclonal antibodies are lab-created antibodies that work in conjunction with a patient's own natural antibodies to identify and stop the virus from infecting other cells. Regeneron is a combination of two different monoclonal antibodies, or mAbs, in one drug. These specific antibodies bind to different areas on the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, preventing the virus from sticking to and infecting human cells and reproducing.

A preliminary study found that the therapy can reduce the risk of hospitalization or death by as much as 70 percent.

"However, this therapy is not a substitute for vaccines designed to prevent COVID-19," says Sheryl Beard, MD, chief medical officer for Ascension Via Christi's Wichita hospitals. "It is a way that we can help keep patients from becoming severely ill and at the same time expand our hospital bed capacity by helping decrease the need among those who meet the eligibility criteria for this therapy. That's a win for all our patients."

To meet that criteria, patients must be symptomatic, within 10 days of the onset of their first symptom, and be at a higher-risk for becoming severely ill with the virus.

To date, 182 patients at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis — more than 100 in August alone — have received monoclonal antibody infusion therapy, which also is available at Ascension Via Christi's hospitals in Pittsburg and Manhattan.