MUSC Health opens new monoclonal antibody infusion site in West Ashley

September 03, 2021
a sandwich board sign on a sidewalk alerts people to the site of the monoclonal antibody infusion site
The new monoclonal antibody infusion site can serve 64 patients per day. It is in Citadel Mall, but the entrance is separate from the rest of the mall and from MUSC Health West Ashley Medical Pavilion. Photo by Leslie Cantu

With a rising need for early-stage treatment during the Delta-driven surge in COVID-19 cases, MUSC Health-Charleston Division has opened a new monoclonal antibody infusion site at Citadel Mall in the West Ashley area.

The site is capable of infusing 64 patients each day.

Monoclonal antibodies are lab-produced antibodies that are given to a person intravenously to help ward off serious illness. The treatment has emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, but it must be given within 10 days of symptoms showing up – and the sooner the better.

“We’ve been doing this since November 2020, so we have a lot of experience and have seen really good effects,” said Vanessa Diaz, M.D., associate chief medical officer for MUSC Physicians.

She said that clinical trials so far have been promising, showing a more than 60% reduction in people who end up hospitalized. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control estimates that 2,000 people have avoided hospitalization, and 200 deaths have been averted, due to monoclonal antibody treatment.

an overhead shot of an open room with rows of large chairs similar to a blood donation center 
MUSC Health staff walk through the site before it opened. Photo by Andrew Trolley

Since November, MUSC Health has used monoclonal antibodies with about 2,500 patients across all of its divisions. That number is likely to increase substantially during this surge – Diaz said that, including all health care providers throughout the state, about 2,000 people each week in South Carolina are receiving monoclonal antibodies.

She noted that the FDA eased the eligibility guidelines, meaning that more people now qualify for monoclonal antibody treatment.

“I believe they expanded the criteria because what they saw was good effectiveness with very little side effects,” she said.

Eligibility now includes:

  • People over age 65
  • People who are overweight with a BMI over 25.
  • Pregnant women.
  • People who are high risk due to pre-existing conditions, including diabetes; chronic kidney, heart or lung disease; or a weakened immune system.
  • Children over the age of 12, as long as they weigh at least 88 pounds, can receive the treatment. Diaz said the infusion team works with the pediatric infectious disease team to oversee this treatment for children.

    Both vaccinated and unvaccinated people can receive the treatment, but there are a couple of important points to keep in mind. First, vaccinated people may see less of a benefit because they already have antibodies circulating.

    Second, unvaccinated people should still get the vaccine.

    “We recommend vaccination about 90 days afterward because monoclonal antibodies are not antibodies that are going to stay in the body forever. They are going to get broken down, and you really need to have your own antibodies,” she said.

    The new West Ashley site is inside the mall, in the former Tattooed Moose location. Patients must have a referral from a health care provider; this is not a walk-in site. Community health providers can refer patients for the treatment through the MUSC Health website.