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Antibody cocktail emerging as ray of hope but high cost of therapy still a deterrent

The antibody cocktail, which shot to limelight last year after former US President Donald Trump took it following his infection, has found takers among several doctors in the city who are administering it to their patients and reporting faster recovery.

The antibody cocktail is used for treatment of mild to moderate Covid-19 among high-risk patients.

The combination of casirivimab and imdevimab had shot to limelight last year after US President Donald Trump took it following his infection

When 48-year-old Dr Manisha Chhajed got infected with Covid-19 10 days back following a family wedding, she decided to go with the antibody cocktail of casirivimab and imdevimab, and could not believe the results. “On Day 3 of onset of symptoms and a Covid positive test report later, I took advice from experts and got the single dose of this cocktail. I started feeling better after 12 hours,” she said.

Dr Manisha is not the only one in her circle who is impressed by her quick recovery. At least five other members of her family also took the cocktail and recovered without much of a fuss.

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The antibody cocktail, which shot to limelight last year after former US President Donald Trump took it following his infection, has found takers among several doctors in the city who are administering it to their patients and reporting faster recovery. The therapy, however, due to its prohibitive cost – Rs 60,000 for a single dose — is still far from being widely used.

“I had taken only a single dose of the Covid-19 vaccine (before I got infected) and had taken maximum precautions. However, despite limited number of guests at a close relative’s wedding, as many as 18 people who attended the event got infected with Covid-19,” said Dr Manisha, who, along with her husband, Dr Gautam, runs the 10-bed Yashshree Hospital at Marketyard.

“Early and prompt treatment was started and at least six persons took the antibody cocktail. Lungs were unaffected in all of us and blood tests also showed normal parameters. Both my 78-year-old father and 75-year-old mother, who had co-morbid conditions and were fully vaccinated, also took this cocktail and there were no major complaints,” she said, adding early diagnosis and treatment has helped in full recovery.

The antibody cocktail is used for treatment of mild to moderate Covid-19 among high-risk patients. As part of this therapy, monoclonal antibodies or laboratory-made proteins mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off harmful pathogens as viruses. The drug comes in a two-dose pack with one patient needing just one dose. It can be administered on an outpatient basis.

“We have administered the cocktail to three patients who had co-morbid conditions, and it has proved to be useful,” Dr Piyush Chaudhari, infectious diseases consultant with Jehangir Hospital, told The Indian Express. “The intended purpose of this cocktail is good. However, apart from the cost factor, (the other issue is) packaging which includes two doses and the other dose has to be used (on someone else) within 48 hours of opening it (the packet),” Dr Chaudhari said.

Dr Prachee Sathe, Director of the ICU at Ruby Hall Clinic, said the clinic has used the cocktail in some of its patients. “The potential role of the antibody cocktail can be considered as there is a slight window (between the catching of the infection and administering of the drug) to prevent deterioration of the infection among those who are not vaccinated,” Dr Sathe said.

Dr Pradeep D’Costa, consultant in intensive care at KEM hospital, said the therapy can be more beneficial than convalescent plasma if used at the correct point of time. “The indication is for use in mild to moderate patients on OPD basis. However, it can also be beneficial in case that spectrum can be extended to within seven days of hospitalisation. For instance, four days ago, a patient who was on non-invasive ventilator and required 100 per cent oxygen was shifted out of the ICU after he was given the cocktail. He has dramatically improved since then,” Dr D’Costa said.

Dr Manisha with her husband Dr Gautam

Dr Manisha and her husband Dr Gautam Chhajed who run a ten bed Yashshree hospital at Marketyard have been working tirelessly during the pandemic reaching out to more than 30,000 Covid affected patients through their MedicoHelpline and online counselling.

Dr Gautam, who is happy with faster recovery shown by his family members, said the affected persons who were not vaccinated had got themselves checked for antibodies. “Some had good levels, while others had less. Hence, we decided to go ahead with the antibody cocktail,” said Dr Gautam, adding none of the six people who took the cocktail required hospitalisation. “However, few other relatives, who had attended the wedding, were unvaccinated and had not availed of the antibody cocktail, had to get hospitalised due to considerable oxygen requirement,” he added.

 

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