News | July 6, 2021

Monoclonal Antibodies Available to Treat Eligible High-Risk COVID-19 Patients

By TRICARE Communications

There’s a lot of information available about how to prevent COVID-19: get the vaccine, maintain social distancing, wear a mask, and wash your hands. But what can you do if you test positive for COVID-19?

You may be eligible for treatment with monoclonal antibodies. This will depend on your age, health history, and how long you’ve had your COVID-19 symptoms.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorizes monoclonal antibody treatment for emergency use for patients who are eligible. Keep in mind that monoclonal antibodies aren’t a cure. If you have a mild or moderate case of the COVID-19 virus, then monoclonal antibodies can help keep you from becoming sicker and ending up in the hospital. In clinical trials, treatment with monoclonal antibodies reduced the risk of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths by at least 70% in people who showed mild or moderate symptoms.

Monoclonal antibodies may help you if you:
  • Have a positive COVID-19 test
  • Have recent onset of mild or moderate COVID-19 symptoms
  • Are at high risk of getting more serious symptoms
  • Are 12 years old or older and weigh at least 88 pounds
 
You aren’t eligible for monoclonal antibody treatment if you:
  • Are hospitalized due to COVID-19
  • Require oxygen treatment due to COVID-19
  • Are younger than 12 years old or weigh less than 88 pounds

How do monoclonal antibodies work to treat COVID-19?
Antibodies are part of the body’s immune system. They defend against viruses and bacteria. According to the FDA, “Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-produced molecules that act as substitute antibodies that can restore, enhance or mimic the immune system’s attack on cells.” These antibodies may prevent the COVID-19 virus from attaching to human cells. This will make it harder for the virus to reproduce and cause you harm.  

What happens during a treatment with monoclonal antibodies?
Monoclonal antibody treatment usually happens at an infusion center. This is because the treatment is given through an intravenous (IV) infusion. The whole process takes about 2 to 3 hours.
 
Here’s what you can expect in four simple steps:
  1. The medical staff conducts a screening.
  2. They start an IV, which delivers the monoclonal antibodies to your body. This takes just over an hour.
  3. You stay at the infusion center for another hour, so the staff can monitor you for an allergic reaction or other side effects. Reactions are rare, but the staff must observe you for this hour.
  4. You can go home.
 
The FDA also authorizes the administration of certain monoclonal antibodies by injection under the skin. This option can be used if an IV infusion isn’t possible and would lead to a treatment delay.
 
Does TRICARE cover monoclonal antibody treatment?
Yes. The federal government is distributing monoclonal antibodies for free. TRICARE covers the administration of the treatment. Keep in mind that your normal deductibles and cost-shares will apply for the treatment administration. These costs will vary depending on your beneficiary category and where you go to get the treatment. 
 
How can I get monoclonal antibody treatment?
The Military Health System has monoclonal antibodies ready for those who are eligible for this COVID-19 treatment. If you test positive for COVID-19 or have symptoms, then contact your health care provider right away. Your provider may recommend you get this treatment. Remember, you must receive treatment as soon as possible.
 
If you have questions or want to learn more about treatments used for COVID-19, be sure to reach out to your provider. If you haven’t gotten the COVID-19 vaccine, make sure you do. You can visit the TRICARE website for vaccine, testing, and more helpful information.

At the time of posting, this information is current. Visit www.cdc.gov or TRICARE COVID Guidance for the most current COVID-19 information.
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