Federal government starting to ration COVID-19 therapeutic treatments sent to states

People seeking COVID-19 treatments to keep them out of the hospital may soon have a tough time finding them.

Citing supply issues, the federal government will now ration supplies to states.

That includes treatments like monoclonal antibodies, which can keep people out of the hospital and shorten the amount of time it takes to recover.

Texas officials fear there won’t be enough for all who need it.

The notice went out to states this week.

Instead of healthcare providers being able to order what they need, the federal government will now decide what states get and the states will give the supplies out.

It’s a concern for health officials here in Texas, given the demand they have seen for the therapies and the role it can play in keeping people out of already taxed hospitals.

In addition to vaccines, therapeutics - like monoclonal antibodies - have been a pillar of Texas’ fight against the latest COVID surge.

Governor Greg Abbott himself received an infusion of monoclonal antibodies when he tested positive last month, and demand has been high.

A Fort Worth infusion center that opened a month ago with the capacity to treat 90 patients a day treated 145 patients Saturday.

"I think word has gotten out among the population, but also among health care providers that this is a real option," said Doug Loveday, Texas Department of State Health Services spokesman.

Collin County opened its first state-supported infusion center at the Collin College - McKinney campus two weeks ago.

But the popularity, paired with a rise in cases, is now a problem.


A box and vial of the Regeneron monoclonal antibody is seen at a new COVID-19 treatment site opened by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis at Camping World Stadium in Orlando following a press conference. DeSantis stated that the treatment site will operat

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The federal government said there’s not enough supply, and it will now work with state health departments to throttle what’s going out.

"What I've heard is words like, significantly lower," Loveday explained. "And so I would imagine we might see half of what we were receiving before, and maybe less."

Federal data shows Texas getting more than 23,000 doses this week.

Florida, another state where the governor has championed the drug, is the only one getting more.

Although hospitalizations have leveled off in areas like North Texas, the decrease in supply of therapeutics is a concern since it’s often given to patients early as a way to keep them from ever needing hospitalization.

"It's certainly kind of a hiccup in this process. There's no other way to put it. And if we could have even more supply coming than we would, we know that we'd be able to distribute it because we have seen the interest growing at some of those regional infusion centers that we're operating," Loveday added.

Doctors note that people are still better off to get vaccinated, but if caught early, the infusions have proven effective.

"It's not a silver bullet.  It's much, much, much more important to be vaccinated. But, in case you're not vaccinated, or even if you have been vaccinated and have a breakthrough infection, earlier in the course of the disease, monoclonal antibodies can help reduce the viral load and reduce the risk of hospitalization up to 70%," said Dr. Felipe Lobelo, epidemiologist with Kaiser Permanente Georgia.

Federal health officials said they’ve seen more people needing the therapeutics in areas with lower vaccination rates.

As state health officials foresee a lack of supply with therapeutics, it’s worth pointing out there’s more than enough vaccines available at pharmacies all over the state.