Regeneron, effective in treating COVID-19, arrives in Kitsap County – Kitsap Sun

SILVERDALE As patients suffering from COVID-19 fill Kitsap County's main hospital to thebrim, a plan to alleviate some of that pressure is taking shape in the backlot of a nearby surgeon's office.

There,an increasing number of cars fill parking spaces.Those in the vehicles wait for a vanguard treatment for COVID-19, one proven to reduce hospitalizationsfrom the pandemic disease.

"People don't realize that we're in the middle of a disaster," saidDr. Kristan Guenterberg, asurgeon by trade, whose Kitsap General Surgery has volunteered to treat patients with COVID-19. "This is a way to decompress the system."

Guenterberg and the staff are likely the first in Kitsap to administerREGN-COV, a monoclonal antibody made by the drug company Regeneron of Tarrytown, New York. Patients in the parkinglot are receiving four total shots directly in the muscle in the legs, abdomenor arm, that are full ofcloning immune cellsshown to be effective against COVID-19.

It is the same treatment used by former President Donald Trump, Texas Gov. GregAbbott and others, and has been found to reduce symptoms of COVID-19 by days. But Guenterberg and the staff there aim not only to help individual patients, butto take pressure off St. Michael Medical Center, wheremore than 50 people have been hospitalized for COVID-19.

Kitsap General Surgery isn't the only providerin Kitsap that has recently begunthe drug for treatment. Just this week,Virginia Mason Franciscan Health's Family Medicine Clinic, on Kitsap Way, began to administer it as well, according toDr. Casey Kernan, one of the physicians there.

Kernan echoed the goals of Guenterberg, pointingout that the most important step residents can take against COVID-19 is to get vaccinated.

"We need to make it clear this is not a substitute for vaccination," he said. "The vaccines are safe andeffective, and our goal is to get people vaccinated."

Given the treatment's limited supply, it is only able to be used for the most high risk of cases including those pregnant, those over 65, those with a compromised immune system or those with chronic diseaseand is most effective when administered soon after the onset of COVID-19, when it best positioned tofight the rapidly multiplying virus.

The drug has also been authorized for people exposed to COVID-19 who haven't confirmed they are positive. But right now, the supply just isn't there yet to provide treatment in those cases.

"We just don't have enough Regeneron for everybody," Kernan said.

Guenterberg said emerging data is showing that for every 26 patients treated with Regeneron, one hospital stay will be prevented. On Friday, he and his team provided treatment for around 25 people.That should ultimately help at St. Michael Medical Center, whose intensive care unit is more than 90% full. But he cautions that supplies are still limited and they're doing the best they can to "ramp up" and help as many people as possible.

The treatment comes as the delta variant surges through Kitsap. The Kitsap Public Health District reported six more COVID-19deaths on Friday alone, bringing the total to 149 for the pandemic. More than 1,000 people are isolating themselves with COVID-19 cases in the biggest wave to date in the pandemic.

As the delta variant fuels an unprecedented surge ofcases in the pandemic, presidential adviser Dr. Anthony Faucisaid in late August thatmonoclonal antibodies are "a much-underutilized intervention" in the treatment of COVID-19. The government is currently subsidizing the cost of the treatment.

President Joe Biden referenced monoclonal antibodytreatments in a speech Thursday, saying that for the unvaccinated, they reduced the risk of hospitalization by up to 70%. He made sure to cast distinction on thetherapy versus the current tideof misinformation driving some to trydrugs likeIvermectin, which is used to treat parasites in horses and is toxic for humans.

"Additionally, were increasing the availability of new medicines recommended by real doctors, not conspiracy theorists," Biden said, adding that the government will boost the "pace of shipment" of an already-distributed 1.4 million courses of monoclonal antibodytreatmentsby 50% "to save lives and reduce the strain on hospitals."

Josh Farley is a reporter coveringthe military and health care for the Kitsap Sun. He can be reached at 360-792-9227,josh.farley@kitsapsun.comor on Twitter at@joshfarley.

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Regeneron, effective in treating COVID-19, arrives in Kitsap County - Kitsap Sun

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