HHS launches COVID-19 antibody treatment locator tool
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has launched a treatment locator to help patients and providers find monoclonal antibody therapeutics for COVID-19.
Housed at HHS' Protect Public Data Hub, the tool displays locations that have received shipments of therapeutics under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authority within the past several weeks.
As of Monday, the locator displayed data from only 22 states. HHS notes that states must opt in to have facility information displayed, and that it would not display locations that received fewer than five courses of treatment.
"The therapeutics have been allocated to all states and U.S. territories," explained an HHS spokesperson to Healthcare IT News. The spokesperson noted that more states have since opted in and that their information will show in the system soon.
"This locator allows patients and providers to find sites for outpatient treatment options, which may help reduce the number of people who require hospitalization for COVID-19 care, which in turn reduces the strain on our nation’s hospitals and their staff," said Dr. Robert Kadlec, the HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, in a statement.
WHY IT MATTERS
The FDA issued an emergency use authorization to use two monoclonal antibody therapeutics, manufactured by Regeneron and Eli Lilly, in November of last year.
Some healthcare providers, such as doctors at the Mayo Clinic, say such treatments can help keep high-risk patients out of the hospital. Others point to guidelines issued by the National Institutes of Health that are less definitive as to the treatments' efficacy.
Still, patients have reportedly expressed urgency (and difficulty) in accessing the treatments, especially following President Donald Trump's highly publicized use of them.
To that end, HHS says it is also working with healthcare organizations on provider education and patient awareness. About 75% of the treatment courses allocated to date remain available for use, according to the agency.
"One of the challenges we've heard is that healthcare providers and patients don't know how to find where the treatment courses have been delivered. This treatment locator helps meet that challenge, so HHS is encouraging all states to participate," said the HHS spokesperson.
Right now, for instance, treatment location information is not available for New Jersey, which has the highest COVID-19 per-capita death rate. It is also not available for New York, where in New York City 305 per 100,000 people have died of COVID-19 since January 2020.
It is available, however, for Massachusetts, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Connecticut and North Dakota, which have the next-highest per-capita death rates for COVID-19.
The locator shows locations where therapeutics have been delivered that are open to the general public. However, the tool is based on shipments reported by the distributor and is not a guarantee of availability.
THE LARGER TREND
The federal government first developed its HHS Protect Hub last year, when it also directed hospitals to bypass the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when reporting COVID-19 patient data.
ON THE RECORD
"We are focused intently on supporting healthcare providers in their efforts to save lives in this pandemic," said Kadlec. "We know that many hospitals are overwhelmed with the recent rise in patients hospitalized with COVID-19, and hospital [staffs] are exhausted after months of pandemic response."