Arkansas pharmacy keeps COVID-19 patients out of hospitals with monoclonal antibody therapy
“Paul” was sick with COVID-19 and starting to have trouble breathing. But when he went to the local emergency department (ED) on a Friday evening, they turned him away because they didn’t have any more beds. As a last resort, he went to De Queen Health and Wellness Pharmacy in De Queen, AR, where he heard he could get treatment.
In September 2021, on APhA’s recommendation, HHS granted pharmacists the authority under the PREP Act to order and administer FDA-approved intramuscular, subcutaneous, and oral medications to treat COVID-19.
Elee Coleman, PharmD, a pharmacist at her family’s De Queen Health and Wellness Pharmacy, was among the first pharmacists in her state to begin administering subcutaneous monoclonal antibody therapy in her pharmacy. Prior to the new legislation, Coleman could administer the therapy under a collaborative practice agreement. The new law prevents a delay in care. In the first 4 weeks alone, the pharmacy has treated more than 300 people.
Data show that monoclonal antibody therapy reduces COVID-19 hospital admissions, ED visits, and viral levels in the blood of infected people.
“You don’t want to say it’s a miracle,” Coleman said. “But it feels like a miracle. We are helping really sick people who are getting this treatment and getting better before they get to the point that they have to go to the hospital.”
In Paul’s case, the hospital turned him away. That’s the case for many patients that Coleman sees.
Some drive hours from Texas or Oklahoma to the small southwest Arkansas town in hopes of getting help after they are put on a waiting list at their local hospital.
Under the PREP Act, Coleman and her brother Torrence Barber, PharmD, order and administer subcutaneous monoclonal antibody therapy for patients who are COVID-19–positive and unvaccinated people who have had a confirmed exposure to the virus.
In the clinic space where the pharmacy is located, the pharmacists isolate the positive cases from the others. They administer 4 shots—one on either side of the abdomen and one behind each arm.
“This is opening up a new world for pharmacists where we are really able to help people,” Coleman said.
When Paul arrived at De Queen Pharmacy, Coleman wasn’t sure whether she would be able to help him at all. His blood oxygen level was 88. He had to be at a minimum of 90 before Coleman could administer the treatment.
“I was worried. I had him sit and wait to see if it would go up because I really did want to treat him,” Coleman recalled.
Finally, after more than 40 minutes, the man’s oxygen saturation crossed the 90 threshold, and Coleman was able to administer the therapy. On Monday morning, Paul’s wife called to tell the pharmacist that he was doing fine. His blood oxygen level had risen back to normal.
Paul is just one of many patients Coleman has been able to help due to the expanded authority the PREP Act gives pharmacists. A patient who arrived at the drugstore with COVID-related pneumonia also got better within 2 days of receiving treatment.
De Queen Health and Wellness Pharmacy is now expanding their space to allow for isolating more COVID-positive patients. While the pandemic has been an awful experience for the world, she said, it has helped advance the pharmacy profession.
“Our ability to offer this treatment is going to change the nation,” Coleman said. “It feels great to go to work and know you’re making a difference. People are calling every day to tell us we probably saved their life.”
Please visit APhA’s complete resource for more information on monoclonal antibody therapy.
Sonya Collins, contributing writer
For the full article, please visit www.pharmacytoday.org for the November 2021 issue of Pharmacy Today.