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Thursday, January 21st, 2021

HHS establishes temporary COVID-19 treatment center in Tucson

© Tucson Medical Center

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Tucson Medical Center (TMC) began administering monoclonal antibody therapeutic treatments last week.

The treatments were given at a temporary COVID-19 infusion center in Tucson. It is just the second federally supported infusion center in the country to treat certain COVID-19 patients. The TMC antibody infusion center will treat patients with mild to moderate cases of COVID-19 and are at high risk of severe illness or hospitalization.

Patients at the center will receive one of two monoclonal antibody therapeutics authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) — either one from Eli Lilly, which uses the monoclonal antibody bamlanivimab, or one from Regeneron, which combines the two monoclonal antibodies casirivimab and imdevimab. Both products can treat adults and kids 12 years of age and older weighing at least 88 pounds.

“Like many areas across the country, Tucson and Pima County are seeing an increase in COVID-19 patients, and many of these patients have become severely ill and need hospitalization,” Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dr. Robert Kadlec said. “We have deployed a federal medical team to the infusion center to provide the therapeutic treatments which can keep people from becoming so sick that they need to be hospitalized, which will help reduce the stress on the hospital, particularly the ICU, and help save lives.”

The medicines — administered through an intravenous (IV) infusion treatment — take about two and a half hours.

“TMC has been on the front line of this pandemic since the beginning, and while we have made great progress in our clinical treatment of patients critically ill with COVID, still too many are dying,” TMC HealthCare President and CEO Judy Rich said. “Monoclonal antibody therapeutics give us an early intervention that can keep people out of the hospital and save lives. Between advances in therapeutics and the vaccine, there is good news on the horizon.”

Patients who test positive for COVID-19 and meet the criteria can be referred by their medical provider to receive the treatment.

“The pandemic’s impact on our healthcare system demands innovative responses, including ways to employ approved therapeutics to prevent as many severe cases and hospitalizations as possible,” said Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services. “We’re grateful to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Tucson Medical Center for taking the lead on an effort that holds great promise for our state.”