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Experts push to make new COVID treatments available to the public

Published: Dec. 27, 2021 at 2:12 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Omicron continues its march across the U.S. as experts push to make new treatments available to the public.

The Federal Drug Administration approved two antiviral pills, one from Pfizer, the other from Merck.

Baptist Memorial Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Stephen Threlkeld said they could be available in pharmacies as soon as this week.

“That’s going to be a game changer,” Dr. Threlkeld said. “It’s a terrific drug, very effective, pushing 90 percent in efficacy even in high-risk people.”

However, Dr. Threlkeld says folks need to get tested in the first three day when they start experiencing symptoms in order to get the maximum effectiveness of the pills.

As far as using monoclonal antibody treatments, omicron presents a new challenge.

Right now, only one of three monoclonal antibody treatments works against the variant.

“Our therapies are limited,” Dr. Threlkeld said. “The monoclonal antibodies that we were using so effectively and cutting hospitalization rates by 80-plus percent, they don’t work anymore with the exception of sotrovimab.”

Just before Christmas, Tennessee Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey said supply could be an issue.

As of December 22nd, the state had 810 doses of that treatment.

Dr. Threlkeld said Baptist Memorial in Memphis is waiting for more.

“There’s really not much of that available right now,” Dr. Threlkeld said. “We don’t have any locally probably for at least another week or so probably into January. So monoclonal antibodies are sort of out as an option.”

The state of Tennessee is expecting to receive more supply of the monoclonal antibodies in January, though no date has been announced.

Meantime health care workers are bracing for a possible surge in hospitals.

Dr. Threlkeld says the number of patients in Baptist in Memphis has already increased.

“We’re up from a minimum of 11 after delta, up to 47 patients in the hospital today,” Dr. Threlkeld said.

Shelby County Health Director Michelle Taylor is concerned that this week, there could be 1000 cases reported in a single day.

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