South Florida doctors grow frustrated with potentially life-saving COVID-19 treatment’s lack of attention

(WSVN) - Right now, most of the attention is placed on the limited supplies of COVID vaccines, but doctors are growing frustrated that a potentially life saving treatment for those infected with the virus is falling off the radar. The Nightteam’s Kevin Ozebek with tonight’s 7 Investigates.

When the pandemic hit, 84-year-old Sandi Gordon took every precaution.

Sandi Gordon, COVID survivor: “I washed my hands until they almost fell off!”

But despite 10 months of being incredibly careful, Sandi got COVID in December.

Sandi Gordon: “I thought I was dying to tell you the truth.”

Sandi’s doctor is Warren Sturman of Broward Health.

He knew she was the perfect candidate for monoclonal antibody therapy.

Dr. Warren Sturman, Broward Health: “One dose, one hour in the whole treatment.”

For one hour, synthetic, lab-made COVID-19 antibodies are pumped into the body.

Dr. Warren Sturman: “I have seen patients look extremely poorly, look like they are on the verge of getting admitted. Then, after that one transfusion, sometimes within an hour, they start to feel better.”

Sandi Gordon: “I felt pretty good right after.”

Kevin Ozebek: “That quick?”

Sandi Gordon: “I didn’t feel like I was dying anymore.”

Despite the incredible results, doctors here at Broward Health and at other hospitals offering the treatment say they have hundreds of unused doses, and the doctors are desperate to administer them.

Dr. Aldo Calvo, Broward Health: “It can really dramatically improve a patient’s condition.”

Kevin Ozebek: “Knowing this treatment is available, what is it like when you see the count come out everyday, and you still see this death toll?”

Dr. Aldo Calvo: “It’s demoralizing.”

Dr. Aldo Calvo says Broward Health has used less than a third of its treatment stockpile given by the federal government.

Dr. Aldo Calvo: “I think many primary care physicians do not know that we offer monoclonal antibody therapy, and if they did, they would be referring more of their patients.”

Memorial Hospital Pembroke has even put up a billboard to get the word out about the therapy.

Dr. Mike Estreicher thinks another reason the treatment isn’t reaching more people is because many get their positive results from mass testing sites.

Dr. Mike Estreicher, Memorial Hospital Pembroke: “They’re not necessarily getting tested in conjunction with their primary care physician or at a hospital. When you’re not doing that, you’re not connected in a way to find out about all the available treatments.”

The treatment can prevent high risk people from getting seriously sick or dying from COVID, so if you have tested positive in the past 10 days and are over 65, over 55 with underlying conditions or have diabetes, chronic kidney disease or immuno-suppressive disease, you may qualify for the treatment.

Dr. Aldo Calvo: “Contact your primary care physician. We can seriously reduce the number of hospitalizations and death if we implement this monoclonal antibody therapy.”

Sandi credits the infusion for being alive today.

Sandi Gordon: “I felt like something just saved my life. It was that instantaneous.”

And because the federal government bought and supplies all the doses, this life saving medication did not cost her a penny.

While the actual infusion is free, there are costs to administer the infusion. That will be billed to your health insurance provider.

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