Expanding Access to Monoclonal Antibody Therapy Could Drive Down Surging Hospitalizations

April 15, 2021
Bob Riney and Dr. Munkarah

DETROIT (April 15, 2021) – Henry Ford Health System said Thursday that expanding access to monoclonal antibody therapy could help drive down COVID-19 hospitalizations that have spiked sharply in recent weeks across the state.

Bob Riney, President of Healthcare Operations and Chief Operating Officer, and Adnan Munkarah, M.D., Executive Vice President and Chief Clinical Officer, said the promising treatment, in conjunction with accelerating vaccination efforts and better compliance of mask wearing and other safety measures, could bring the pandemic under control.

“Monoclonal antibody definitely is a game-changer at this point in the surge,” Dr. Munkarah said. “However, it is not a solution to the problem. The solution to the problem is preventing us from getting the infection. And this done by getting vaccinated.”

At a news media briefing the senior leaders announced that Henry Ford was teaming up with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to boost access to monoclonal antibody therapy (mAb) in southeast Michigan, a treatment that has been shown to keep high-risk COVID-19 patients out of the hospital.

If administered within 10 days of the onset of symptoms after a positive COVID-19 test, the one-time therapy is effective in neutralizing the virus and preventing symptoms from worsening. The treatment is administered intravenously through a vein.

With the support of HHS, Henry Ford is opening a new monoclonal antibody (mAb) infusion center in southwest Detroit and expanding mAB therapy services at three of its hospitals that care for patients in underserved communities – Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Henry Ford Macomb Hospital in Clinton Township and Henry Ford Allegiance Health in Jackson. HHS is also providing support to staff and equip the infusion center expansions.

The new infusion center is at Community Health and Social Services (CHASS), a federally qualified health center whose physician services are contracted through Henry Ford. CHASS first opened in 1970 and serves underserved Black and Latino patient populations.

“On behalf of Henry Ford Health System, I want to thank the Department of Health and Human Services for their support in selecting us as their partner in this important community outreach initiative,” Riney said. “When they approached us about this opportunity to build quick capacity and access to this treatment, we didn’t hesitate. And within one week, we were able to put up these expansion and new sites.”

Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-produced molecules engineered to serve as substitute antibodies that can restore, enhance or mimic the body’s immune system and target specific attacks by viruses or cancer. The outpatient treatment is only for patients ages 12 years and older with mild to moderate COVID-19 and who are at high risk for progressing to severe disease and/or hospitalization. An infusion treatment takes about one hour to complete.

mAb therapy is not authorized for use in patients who are hospitalized or require oxygen therapy due to COVID-19 or require oxygen therapy due to underlying non-COVID-19 related comorbidity.

The infusion centers at CHASS, Henry Ford Hospital, Henry Ford Macomb Hospital and Henry Ford Allegiance Health will be open from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday – Sunday. The first treatments got under way today at the three hospitals. The CHASS site will begin treating patients on April 20.

Patients are required to have a positive COVID-19 PCR test, meet certain eligibility criteria and receive a referral from a physician before they can be approved for mAb treatment.

The new sites have a combined capacity to treat 100 patients a day. All referrals will be screened by phone and patients will receive an appointment for infusion at one of the four expansion sites.

Also discussed at the briefing:

  • Henry Ford Macomb Hospital, which continues to see the highest number of COVID admissions, continues to prioritize and limit elective procedures
  • Henry Ford’s four other acute-care hospitals continue to provide a full slate of services to meet the needs of our patients. Senior leaders said the health system is flexing capacity to make certain the needs of patients are met, including non-COVID patients who are seeking care
  • Based on predictive models, the surge of hospitalizations is expected to continue for another two weeks before things start to plateau
  • Henry Ford eclipsed 250,000 doses of vaccine administered at its various vaccination sites. On average, the health system has administered about 20,000 doses of vaccine in the last five weeks

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NEWS MEDIA ONLY may contact: David Olejarz / [email protected] / 313-303-0606

About Henry Ford Health System
Founded in 1915 by Henry Ford himself, Henry Ford Health System is a non-profit, integrated health system committed to improving people’s lives through excellence in the science and art of healthcare and healing. Henry Ford Health System includes Henry Ford Medical Group, with more than 1,900 physicians and researchers practicing in more than 50 specialties at locations throughout Southeast and Central Michigan. Acute care hospitals include Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, MI and Henry Ford Allegiance Health in Jackson, MI – both Magnet® hospitals; Henry Ford Macomb Hospital; Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital; and Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital.

The largest of these is Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, a quaternary care research and teaching hospital and Level 1 Trauma Center recognized for clinical excellence in cardiology, cardiovascular surgery, neurology, neurosurgery, and multi-organ transplants. The health system also provides comprehensive, best-in-class care for cancer at the Brigitte Harris Cancer Pavilion, and orthopedics and sports medicine at the William Clay Ford Center for Athletic Medicine – both in Detroit.

As one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers, Henry Ford Health System annually trains more than 3,000 medical students, residents, and fellows in more than 50 accredited programs, and has trained nearly 40% of the state’s physicians. Our dedication to education and research is supported by nearly $100 million in annual grants from the National Institutes of Health and other public and private foundations.

Henry Ford’s not-for-profit health plan, Health Alliance Plan (HAP), provides health coverage for more than 540,000 people.

Henry Ford Health System employs more than 33,000 people, including more than 1,600 physicians, more than 6,600 nurses and 5,000 allied health professionals.

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