Hawaii receives newest COVID-19 treatment, but it hasn’t been distributed to hospitals yet

Hawaii receives newest COVID-19 treatment, but it hasn’t been distributed to hospitals yet

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii has received 80 vials of a new COVID-19 antibody treatment, but hurdles with distributing it mean no hospitals have their hands on it yet.

Bamlanivimab, from drug maker Eli Lilly, is the newest COVID-19 treatment available and in limited supply in the islands. Only Vermont got fewer vials ― just 20.

Other states with similar populations to Hawaii received a lot more.

Idaho got 680 vials, for example, possibly because it is experiencing a surge.

Bamlanivimab, from drug maker Eli Lilly, is the newest COVID-19 treatment available and in limited supply in the islands.
Bamlanivimab, from drug maker Eli Lilly, is the newest COVID-19 treatment available and in limited supply in the islands. (Source: AP)

Another reason Hawaii hospitals and care facilities don’t have the treatment yet has to do with how the drug is administered. It requires intravenous infusion for an hour, then the patient has to be monitored.

“These are all people positive for COVID and so we don’t want to have those patients mixed in with other patients who are getting IV treatment,” said Dr. Melinda Ashton, of Hawaii Pacific Health.

Infusion centers are often filled with cancer patients who are already immunocompromised.

Straub Medical Center and The Queen’s Medical Center have separate, outpatient COVID-19 units that were already in use and both facilities are ready to receive the drug.

Eli Lilly was granted emergency use authorization from the Federal Drug Administration for bamlanivimab last week to treat those diagnosed with COVID-19.

The treatment is for patients 12 and up who have mild to moderate symptoms but are at risk for severe reactions or hospitalization after catching COVID-19.

Hilton Raethel, president of the Healthcare Association of Hawaii, said the drug could keep hospitalizations down despite rising cases.

“We’re doing a lot better job at taking care of people if they do test positive and if they do have symptoms," he said.

Medical leaders continue to discuss distribution throughout the state.

“What is the appropriate way to prioritize, what will be probably ... a scarce resource?" said Ashton, adding it’s likely many people qualify for the treatment but won’t be able to get it.

Medical officials hope more vials are on the way in the coming weeks.

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