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Bamlanivimab Is a MAB for COVID-19

COVID-19 is surging. The FDA has just given some people access to bamlanivimab, a monoclonal antibody. Who can get it? Learn the rules NOW!
Bamlanivimab Is a MAB for COVID-19
Hospital quarantine room, Quarantine patient in treatment of COVID-19 Pandemic Coronavirus Woman hospital isolation with Dripping of IV solution in alone, Coronavirus Disease 2019 spreading concept

Bamlanivimab is a COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatment. We know that pronouncing bamlanivimab is a challenge, but if the drug lives up to its promise, we will all be celebrating! The FDA must believe that bamlanivimab works against the coronavirus because the agency just granted this MAB (monoclonal antibody) emergency use authorization (EUA). That’s a very big deal! This is not a vaccine. It is a treatment for the coronavirus!

Why Call this Drug Bamlanivimab?

Monoclonal antibodies are almost always impossible to pronounce. That’s because the generic drug name has to have mab as its suffix. The prefix often has a bunch of syllables that make no sense except to people at the FDA. Here are some classics:

Adalimumab is one of the most successful drugs in history. This MAB is also impossible to pronounce but you might recognize its brand name: Humira.

Irbritumomab has a brand name that is pronounceable: Zevalin.

Abciximab is a tongue twister that is known as ReoPro.

Let’s hope that Eli Lilly gives bamlanivimab a much more pronounceable name!

How Good is Bamlanivimab vs COVID?

Here is what the FDA announced on November 9, 2020

“While the safety and effectiveness of this investigational therapy continues to be evaluated, bamlanivimab was shown in clinical trials to reduce COVID-19-related hospitalization or emergency room visits in patients at high risk for disease progression within 28 days after treatment when compared to placebo.”

“The data supporting this EUA for bamlanivimab are based on an interim analysis from a phase two randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial in 465 non-hospitalized adults with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms.

“For patients at high risk for disease progression, hospitalizations and emergency room visits occurred in 3% of bamlanivimab-treated patients on average compared to 10% in placebo-treated patients.”

Who Can Get Bamlanivimab?

What the FDA’s emergency use authorization means in practice is that if people are considered “high risk,” they are candidates for this monoclonal antibody before they develop complications of COVID-19. Bamlanivimab is somewhat similar to the intravenous drug President Trump received while in the hospital with the coronavirus. That MAB was developed by Regeneron. 

If someone is admitted to the hospital with a diagnosis of COVID-19 or develops breathing difficulties requiring oxygen, they will not be a candidate for the drug.

Confused? We don’t blame you. The FDA’s criteria will make it challenging to administer bamlanivimab.

In essence, you have to be a high-risk patient who is diagnosed with the coronavirus, but not be hospitalized. Let’s say you are over 65, overweight and have diabetes and/or heart disease. As long as you are diagnosed outside the hospital or in the emergency department and are not receiving oxygen, you could conceivably be a candidate for the drug.

Once you are actually admitted to the hospital and/or need oxygen you are out of luck when it comes to BAM. That’s our new abbreviation for bamlanivimab until it gets a shiny new brand name from Lilly.

What Should You Do?

If you or someone you love comes down with symptoms of COVID-19, we encourage you to ask about BAM before you are admitted to a hospital and before they administer oxygen therapy. Once they do either of those two things, BAM is OUT! Because the drug could speed recovery or prevent serious COVID complications, it is important to know the rules before entering the hospital.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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