COVID-19, rescue treatments and what an ounce of prevention is worth | News, Sports, Jobs

“An ounce of prevention is better than cure.” And yet it does, even though much of this article will focus on new lifesaving treatments for COVID-19.

Word “rescue” means being rescued from a dangerous situation, and rescue is what we hope can happen when we become seriously ill. As someone who was diagnosed with invasive cancer a few years ago, I am grateful to have been rescued by knowledgeable doctors who prescribed the latest evidence-based treatments involving surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and hormone therapy. There are more than 17 million cancer survivors alive in the United States today, which is a huge increase from the dismal survival numbers of decades ago. And though I can’t speak for those grateful millions in our “survival” club nor for all the brave cancer patients currently undergoing powerful treatments, I know that if there was a safe and preventative vaccine that could have made my scary cancer journey useless, I would have been on the front line. Is not it?

Just as I thanked Drs. Messeih, Glaser, John Jones, Collins and Keenan for their expert care during my treatment, I also took many opportunities to thank the cancer researchers in person as a lay person when I met with them regularly to peer review grant proposals for the study of the cell cycle. and growth. These top researchers from universities across the country are among the unseen laboratory scientists and doctors who carefully devise and test hypotheses that sometimes result in life-saving treatments. They are brilliant and dedicated people who deserve our recognition. They have mine.

Coming back to COVID-19, we know that vaccines are our best tool to prevent serious illness from SARS-CoV-2, but they are not perfect, and some fully vaccinated and even boosted individuals are getting sick, not to mention immunocompromised and unvaccinated people. who are much more at risk. In October 2021, the risk of death for unvaccinated people after contracting COVID-19 was 20 times greater than that of fully vaccinated and boosted people in the United States, and half of Lycoming County residents are among the unvaccinated. vaccinated. So when people get COVID-19 for whatever reason, how can they be treated?

There is a range of interventions for COVID-19. Some are for people with mild illness, while others are for patients who have been hospitalized with more serious illness. To learn more about outpatient treatment options, you should call your doctor or other healthcare provider early in the course of confirmed or suspected COVID-19.

Three different monoclonal antibody treatments were approved last year for use in patients aged 12 and over who have risk factors for progression to severe disease. Eligible patients must be within the first ten days of illness and must not require new or increased use of supplemental oxygen. Usually given as intravenous infusions, monoclonal antibodies work by delivering a burst of antibodies to help the immune system eliminate the virus. Due to its concentration on a very specific part of the spike protein receptors, only one of these three monoclonal antibodies cleared by the FDA – sotrovimab – is found to be effective against the highly mutated Omicron variant of the virus. Sotrovimab is still in short supply. It is allocated, or some might say “rationed” to most-at-risk patients who qualify, and not even all of those individuals are currently able to obtain it.

Other than Tamiflu and anti-HIV therapies in the past, there are few valuable drugs to combat the replication of viruses once they enter our body’s cells. The CDC’s COVID-19 panel recently added remdesivir, another antiviral, to the list of recommended treatments for non-hospitalized infected patients at high risk of disease progression. It is administered as an outpatient intravenous infusion for three consecutive days. Also impressively, the FDA in December cleared two breakthrough new antiviral pills, each to be prescribed to high-risk individuals within the first five days of illness. One such drug, Paxlovid, was 88% effective in reducing deaths and hospitalizations in high-risk clinical trial participants with COVID-19 compared to a placebo control group. Other independent research has also shown that Paxlovid works against the Omicron variant. Molnupiravir, the other prescription antiviral pill given early in the infection, has a different mechanism of action. It’s only 30% effective in preventing hospitalization and death, but it provides significant enough benefits to patients that it won narrow approval for clearance from the FDA’s Independent Scientific Advisory Panel.

Oral antiviral drugs are easy to take at home, but because they are difficult to manufacture, an adequate supply will not be available for several months. Pricing considerations can also impact fair distribution to all who stand to benefit, something policymakers need to address quickly.

Rescue is expensive and sometimes precarious, making an ounce of prevention worth a pound of cure. Thank you for vaccinating, boosting and masking.

Barbara Hemmendinger, MSS, is a retired clinical social worker and family medicine educator. She is a member of the Lycoming County Health Improvement Coalition and belongs to Let’s End COVID!, a North Central PA concerned group working to overcome the Covid-19 pandemic through education, awareness and support. mitigation.

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