St. Luke’s University Health Network has established one of Pennsylvania’s first outpatient COVID-19 treatment programs – a monoclonal antibody infusion center at St. Luke’s Easton Campus.
The Easton Campus infusion center, which welcomed its first three patients Monday afternoon, offers patients bamlanivimab, an experimental drug developed by Eli Lilly that is similar to a product President Donald Trump received after contracting the virus last month.
A second infusion center is on track to open next week at St. Luke’s Warren Campus in Phillipsburg, N.J.
“St. Luke’s is pleased to be collaborating with Pennsylvania and New Jersey health departments to advance this important COVID-19 treatment,” said infectious disease specialist Dr. Jeffrey Jahre, the Network's Senior Vice President of Medical and Academic Affairs. “This approach will help our hospitals avoid being overwhelmed during the current surge as certain high-risk patients who receive bamlanivimab recover in the comfort of their own homes.”
Granted emergency authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, monoclonal antibodies block the virus’ attachment and entry into human cells. Infusion has been found to be particularly effective in preventing the need for hospitalization in select, higher-risk patients including those who are 65 years of age or older and whose infection, identified early, does not yet require supplemental oxygen.
Patients who wish to be treated with bamlanivimab may schedule an appointment after receiving a prescription from a St. Luke’s primary care physician. Supplies, dictated by the state, could be subject to limitations.
“St. Luke’s has been able to bring this exciting new treatment to the Lehigh Valley so quickly thanks to multidisciplinary cooperation across our Network,” Jahre said. “This kind of teamwork, which in this case involves many individuals from multiple departments, is a hallmark of St. Luke’s can-do culture.”
Monoclonal antibody infusion is one part of St. Luke’s two-pronged strategy for caring for COVID-19 patients at home.
St. Luke’s also is one of the first health systems worldwide to use Masimo SafetyNet, a cloud-based patient management platform, to help clinicians care for patients remotely. It works by using a wireless sensor to monitor patients' vital signs and provide doctors with valuable clinical data that helps to inform difficult treatment decisions such as when to use a ventilator.
In the spring, the Network deployed Masimo SafetyNet at its hospitals and tested at-home use among COVID-19-postive employees. Expanded home-use for certain hospital-discharged COVID-19 patients who are not employees is planned to begin in upcoming weeks.
“A passion for research and innovation has enabled St. Luke’s to deploy new and powerful weapons in the fight against COVID-19, establishing the Network as a leader among health systems nationally,” Jahre said.