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One year on, doctor says monoclonal antibodies underutilized

Dr. Omar Gonzalez, hospital epidemiologist for Dignity Health in Arizona.
Dignity Health in Arizona.
Dr. Omar Gonzalez, hospital epidemiologist for Dignity Health in Arizona.

One year ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use of monoclonal antibodies to treat mild to moderate COVID-19 in people who are at high risk.

But do people know about them?

“Patients who get sick with the coronavirus, as soon as they get sick, they should contact their primary care physician and discuss this option of treatment, since it has been proven to be very effective at preventing progression and as well as hospitalization,” said Dr. Omar Gonzalez, hospital epidemiologist for Dignity Health in Arizona.

Monoclonal antibodies offer a safe, effective outpatient treatment for patients 12 and older who do not require oxygen or ventilation.

But Gonzalez says the patients he interviews "universally" have never heard of it.

"And I think it is a lack of knowledge in the community — not just by providers, but also by the general population." 

Gonzales says eligible patients should ask doctors to evaluate them for the treatment, which works best in the first 10 days following symptom onset or a positive test result.

The FDA also has approved the treatment as a protective measure for at-risk people who have recently been exposed to the coronavirus.

Nicholas Gerbis joined KJZZ’s Arizona Science Desk in 2016. A longtime science, health and technology journalist and editor, his extensive background in related nonprofit and science communications inform his reporting on Earth and space sciences, neuroscience and behavioral health, and bioscience/biotechnology.Apart from travel and three years in Delaware spent earning his master’s degree in physical geography (climatology), Gerbis has spent most of his life in Arizona. He also holds a master’s degree in journalism and mass communication from Arizona State University’s Cronkite School and a bachelor’s degree in geography (climatology/meteorology), also from ASU.Gerbis briefly “retired in reverse” and moved from Arizona to Wisconsin, where he taught science history and science-fiction film courses at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He is glad to be back in the Valley and enjoys contributing to KJZZ’s Untold Arizona series.During the COVID-19 pandemic, Gerbis focused almost solely on coronavirus-related stories and analysis. In addition to reporting on the course of the disease and related research, he delved into deeper questions, such as the impact of shutdowns on science and medicine, the roots of vaccine reluctance and the policies that exacerbated the virus’s impact, particularly on vulnerable populations.