TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Tampa General Hospital was the first hospital in Florida to provide monoclonal antibody treatment to a COVID-19 positive patient, the hospital announced Wednesday.

The monoclonal antibody bamlanivimab treatment from Eli Lilly was approved by the FDA in early November.

TGH announced they provided the first dose to a patient Wednesday.

The drug allows doctors to provide protection to COVID-19 positive patients with mild or moderate symptoms before their symptoms get worse, or they require hospitalization.

The drug acts like a human antibody in the immune system. According to a press release, it works to block the “spike protein” in the virus before it can enter human cells and cause illness. The drug is given intravenously during an outpatient procedure. The patient is monitored for symptoms for an hour before being sent home.

“Effective delivery of this treatment can be logistically complicated,” said Dr. Kami Kim, director of the Division Infectious Diseases and International Medicine at USF Health Morsani College of Medicine. “Tampa General Hospital and USF Health were already actively conducting clinical trials on COVID-19 and had the team, location and infrastructure in place to identify and care for the patients who can benefit most from this treatment.”

Supplies are limited, and TGH and USF physicians are only approving the drug for high-risk patients. High risk patients are COVID-19 positive who are within ten days of symptom onset and meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Age 65 or older
  • Currently receiving immunosuppressive treatment
  • Have diabetes
  • Have chronic kidney disease
  • Have a body mass index (BMI) of greater than 35

According to a release, in the event of a shortage, clinicians will work with patients to determine whether patients qualify for similar drugs in research trials currently underway at USF and TGH.

“Tampa General’s commitment to treating the community during this global pandemic is what allowed us early access to this first in class treatment,” said Dr. Abe Schwarzberg, chief of oncology and senior vice president of Oncology and Network Development at TGH. “Having these monoclonal antibodies will allow our medical teams to provide fast, effective treatment to those patients at highest risk for falling critically ill or possibly dying of complications from COVID-19.”