Large New York-area hospitals say they have stopped using monoclonal antibody therapies because they run out of the only treatment that appears to be effective for the omicron variant, leaving doctors without a vital tool to treat critically ill Covid patients.
New York University and the Valley Health System in northern New Jersey informed doctors on Sunday that they were suspending monoclonal antibody programs and would not offer the treatments until they received more shipments from state and federal health agencies. Hospitals said it was not clear when they would be restocked.
Meanwhile, the Mount Sinai Health System in New York City said it would stop offering monoclonal antibodies in its emergency departments, but did not say whether this was the result of supply issues.
Monoclonal antibodies, which are proteins made in the laboratory that mimic the mechanism of the immune system to prevent the virus from entering health cells, have been used to treat patients at high risk of becoming seriously ill from the coronavirus. But only one of the available antibodies – sotrovimab, made by GlaxoSmithKline – appears to be effective against the omicron variant, which now accounts for the majority of new cases of Covid in the United States.
Hospitals in other parts of the country say they have a very limited supply of sotrovimab given its novelty, said Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territory Health Officials. He said his organization has learned that supply will increase dramatically over the next few weeks as production increases.
New York University told its doctors that as of Sunday they were unable to place orders for monoclonal antibodies and that on Wednesday “we will no longer be offering these monoclonal antibody infusions to patients. from NYU Langone Health, ”according to a letter obtained by NBC News.
The hospital said in the “coming weeks” that it expected to receive another distribution of sotrovimab from New York state officials, but that it will likely have to ration those who receive the drugs. doses until supply increases.
“We anticipate that supplies will be severely limited, which will cause us to further narrow the eligibility criteria (monoclonal antibodies) to include only our most vulnerable patients,” the letter said.
Mount Sinai said on Sunday it was suspending its monoclonal antibody program in its emergency departments because two other monoclonal antibodies – one from Regeneron and another from Eli Lilly – appeared ineffective against the omicron variant, which represents the vast majority of cases in New York.
“The Mount Sinai emergency services do not offer treatment with monoclonal antibodies at this time,” the hospital said on its website. “As the Omicron variant spreads, we learn more about it. We are finding that it spreads quickly from person to person and most people have mild infections. also that some monoclonal antibody treatments are not useful for patients who become infected with this variant or for post-exposure prophylaxis. “
Valley Health System said it was suspending its monoclonal antibody program due to a lack of supply, with no indication of resuming treatment.
“We are doing everything we can to get more supplies and will keep everyone informed as the situation unfolds,” the hospital said in a staff email obtained by NBC News.
The federal government suspended shipments of all monoclonal antibodies in late November while scientists studied the effectiveness of antibodies against the omicron variant, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services said.
In recent days, the federal government has started distributing 55,000 doses of sotrovimab, with the first shipments due on Tuesday. The doses are the remainder of a federal contract with GlaxoSmithKline and will be distributed by the federal government to states and hospitals, company spokeswoman Kathleen Quinn said.
Quinn declined to say how many doses the company has, citing confidentiality agreements. The company supplies sotrovimab to several other countries, including the United Kingdom, Japan and Canada, and has sold a total of 750,000 doses worldwide, Quinn said.
“We are urgently working and exploring options to expand our supply capacity in 2022 so that we can take on more patients,” she said.
While the current supply of sotrovimab is “limited,” the Department of Health and Human Services expects there will be more than 300,000 doses available in January, a spokesperson for the agency.
In the meantime, some hospitals say they have run out of options for patients. Stavros Christoudias, a doctor at Valley Health and chairman of the board of directors of the New Jersey Doctor-Patient Alliance, told NBC News he has a fully vaccinated leukemia patient in desperate need of antibodies, but none are is available in his hospital.
“I watch people die, I watch him,” Christoudias said. “It happens everywhere, my PTSD is on fire again. “