Despite being ineffective against Omicron, demand rises for antibody cocktail jabs

However, the doctors say that the demand is mostly panic driven and there are much cheaper alternatives to treat the severity of Covid in the third wave.

Published: 22nd January 2022 06:48 AM  |   Last Updated: 22nd January 2022 06:48 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Hospitals in the state are witnessing a heavy demand for the expensive Monoclonal Antibodies (mAbs) used for reducing the severity of Covid, despite evidence that it is ineffective against Omicron. There are still many takers who volunteer to get mAbs even when a single shot costs Rs 60,000.  

The demand is high that the hospitals have to extend the injection schedule into the night to meet the requirement of patients admitted in casualty. However, the doctors say that the demand is mostly panic driven and there are much cheaper alternatives to treat the severity of Covid in the third wave.

The hospitals continue with the treatment protocol that includes administering mAbs to risky patients. Though several studies have suggested that the majority of people tested positive in the third wave have infected Omicron,  doctors are in a tricky situation as they don’t know if the patient in front of them have Delta or Omicron variant.

“The information we are getting from doctors who tested recent samples in suitably equipped laboratories in Kochi and Kozhikode hospitals is that Omicron has taken over. The rapid rise in cases is typical of Omicron, which appears to be replacing Delta. This needs official confirmation by larger studies. Knowing this is important because one of the treatment modalities: Monoclonal antibodies used in India against Delta are not effective against Omicron,” said Dr Rajeev Jayadevan, vice-chairman, Research Cell, Indian Medical Association, Kerala.

According to him, the numerous mutations in Omicron have effectively altered the targets that mAbs was previously acting against the delta variant.   Admitting that it was not effective against Omicron, health minister Veena George said, however, the Kerala Medical Services Corporation has stocked the drug.  The presence of Omicron was detected in 75 per cent of the samples tested among inpatients in Baby Memorial Hospital Ltd, Kozhikode, recently.

“We are buying special testing kits for Omicron. If the infection is due to Omicron there is no need to give expensive drug. We can switch to early antiviral treatment to high risk group,” said infectious diseases specialist Dr Rajalakshmi A of  KIMS Health, Thiruvananthapuram.

Monoclonal antibodies 

Made headlines when former US president Donald Trump took the injection in October 2020
Given to treat mild to moderate Covid patients
Demand high even when it has been found ineffective against Omicron


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