RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — An antibody treatment for high-risk patients fighting COVID-19 is now available in central North Carolina. 

Unlike other treatments for COVID-19, this is for people who are not sick enough to be in the hospital. It’s also only available for high-risk patients, whose age or underlying conditions make them vulnerable to becoming seriously ill with COVID-19.

Dr. David Kirk treats WakeMed’s sickest COVID-19 patients. 

“The patients that get sick enough to be in the hospital, they’re very high risk of long-term side effects and mortality,” he explained. 

Kirk said he hopes antibody treatments, which were recently given emergency use authorization by the FDA, will keep people with COVID-19 from needing to be admitted to the hospital.

“We received the drug last week and almost immediately began giving it in our emergency rooms for our high-risk population,” Kirk said. 

WakeMed, Duke, and UNC all have the treatment. It fights the coronavirus with antibodies produced in a lab, but it’s not available to everyone.

 “There is a limited supply of this medication, so it’s been prioritized for people who have the greatest risk of getting really sick,” said Dr. David Wohl, professor in UNC’s Division of Infectious Diseases. 

People are already receiving the drug, but since it’s given to patients who are not in the hospital, doctors are still working on long-term plans to distribute it. 

Patients need to take it as soon as possible after diagnosis, and the IV infusion takes a couple of hours. Wohl says UNC will use infusion centers.

 “We close the infusion center during certain hours only to people who have COVID-19 who are coming in for the infusion,” he explained. 

While doctors are hopeful, they want everyone to remember that these treatments are still being studied.

“It  has to be a risk-benefit,” said Kirk. “Are you high-risk enough to take this experimental medicine?”

Wohl added, “We  should recognize we don’t know that this works.”

People who are interested in the treatment and believe they are eligible should talk to their doctors.

The sooner they receive the treatment, doctors say, the more likely it will be effective. 

UNC also has a clinical trial studying the antibody treatment. If you are interested click here.