MISSOULA — Governor Greg Gianforte announced that the state is expanding access to monoclonal antibody (mAb) treatments with the opening of a new state-sponsored clinic in Missoula. This is the second state-sponsored mAb clinic in Montana; the first one opened in Butte several weeks ago.
“A life-saving tool for Montanans who contract COVID-19, monoclonal antibody treatments help reduce the strain on our hospital systems and open up ICU beds for the most critical patients,” Gianforte said. “We are excited to provide Montanans expanded access to early treatment through the opening of this new, state-sponsored clinic in Missoula.”
The new clinic at Providence St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula will use staff and resources through Jogan Health Solutions, a third party with which the state contracted to alleviate the strain on hospital resources, according to a news release.
The monoclonal antibody treatment center is open to eligible, at-risk Montanans with a referral from their medical provider.
“While monoclonal antibodies are an important piece of the COVID-19 toolkit, they are only given with physician prescription once a person has contracted the virus. COVID vaccination remains the key measure in preventing a patient’s possible hospitalization and death,” Providence Montana Chief Executive Joyce Dombrouski said. “Partnering with the State of Montana for staffing was integral in our ability to offer this treatment locally.”
The Missoula location will be at the Providence Center which is located at 902 North Orange Street.
Gianforte stressed in a news release that the most effective protection against the virus remains safe, effective, and free COVID vaccines.
So what is monoclonal antibody treatment?
"It is engineered, man-made antibodies that specifically is designed to target the virus," said Dr. Neil Ku, hospital epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist at Billings Clinic.
"These antibodies will then bind to a part of the virus, the spike protein, and that will prevent the virus from infecting your normal cells," he said. "And then somehow, the body will then recognize that to try to clear out that that combination of the virus and antibodies. That's the theory behind that."
Ku said the therapy is for patients who have been diagnosed within the last 10 days.
"It's not just one antibody but actually two different types of monoclonal antibody," Ku said. "This requires someone who can administer this therapy. You know, take about 20 minutes to get the injections and then an hour of observation afterwards."
And he says while it has been effective, it's still best to not get COVID.
"It should never be considered as a substitute for vaccination," Ku said. "The monoclonal antibody is not permanent. They are authorized for emergency use. It's not so much as experimental. There's enough studies been done and that that allowed it to be authorized."