Dorsie Sullenger

Madison Memorial Hospital Director of Pharmacy Dorsie Sullenger.

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On Tuesday, Madison Memorial Hospital will be able to administer COVID-19 treatment comparable to the effectiveness of the treatment that President Donald Trump received.

“I think about myself and what it means for me, and I can’t help but get a little emotional,” said hospital Director of Pharmacy Dorsie Sullenger. “I’m over 65 and to have this treatment available for me if I get COVID so I don’t end up in the hospital with a serious COVID infection — that’s a huge deal.”

According to a press release from Madison Memorial, the hospital will be among the first medical facilities nationwide to implement the just-released monoclonal antibody treatment known as bamlanivimab, which will be available to high-risk COVID-positive patients in Madison County and the surrounding areas.

Sullenger said high-risk patients are anyone over 65, or 55 with health complications such as diabetes, asthma or arthritis.

“We will probably not be using it on a healthy 35-year-old patient with no health problems that tests positive for COVID-19,” he said.

The hospital will do a trial run of administering the treatment to three patients on Tuesday, Sullenger said. If everything goes smoothly, which he anticipates, the hospital will then perform the treatment to patients who need it.

The treatment, developed by Eli Lilly and Company, is medicine comparable to the treatment that Trump received after he contracted coronavirus in October, according to the press release.

On Nov. 9 the Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for the use of bamlanivimab to treat mild to moderate COVID-19 in adult and pediatric patients 12 and older. The procedure involves a one-time intravenous infusion, and is intended for high-risk patients.

Bamlanivimab was shown in clinical trials to reduce COVID-19 hospitalizations and emergency room visits in patients who presented a high probability of potential disease progression.

Sullenger said the infusion will take approximately an hour to administer. The hospital is then mandated to observe the patient for another hour to ensure the treatment went according to plan. After those two hours, the patient is released to go home.

“It’s a slick thing,” he said. “(Trump) had two of these drugs, we’re given one of these drugs, but he had two different drugs that was mixed together in a cocktail that he received.”

Sullenger said patients do not need to pay for the medication. The $1,250 dose will be funded by the federal government for each patient. The only potential cost for patients could come from IV administration, which typically is under $250. However, the hospital is waiting to find out if that will also be covered by federal COVID-19 funds.

The treatment is not authorized for patients who are already hospitalized or who require oxygen therapy due to COVID-19, according to the release. Sullenger said it does not work for hospitalized patients because the virus has already taken over a patient’s body. Bamlanivimab binds to the virus in the early stages to prevent the virus from infecting a patient’s body.

Madison Memorial is mandated to set up a dedicated satellite facility to administer the treatments. This facility is located inside the Madison Memorial Rexburg Medical Clinic and will increase the safety for patients and staff at the hospital, Sullenger said.

Dr. Clay Prince, Chief Medical Officer at Madison Memorial, said in the release, “For a mid-sized regional healthcare facility, Madison Memorial once again has shown that state-of-the-art care is available right here, in our own community, right now. From the FDA’s emergency release on Monday, to deployment and implementation here in Madison County only a week later, the hospital’s response has been both immediate and impressive.”

Sullenger said he immediately coordinated with the Idaho Health Department to receive doses of the treatment.

“We were able to get 45 vials and I thought we’d be lucky to get maybe half a dozen,” he said. “We were able to get 45 and that was all based on COVID-19 data in our county.”

Madison County has been hit hard with COVID-19 since the beginning of October and has been designated with critical-risk status by Eastern Idaho Public Health.

As of Nov. 11, there were 196 active cases in the county, according to EIPH. The active case rate was at 49.1 per 10,000 and there have been seven COVID-19 deaths in the county.

“They realize that we have a huge problem in Madison County and the surrounding areas,” Sullenger said.

The federal government bought 300,000 doses to distribute across the nation, he said. If this works well, it can buy 650,000 additional doses to release over the next few months. It will cost the U.S. more than a billion dollars to buy these doses, and Madison Memorial did not have to use any funds to receive its treatments.

Sullenger said the state will give the hospital doses every week depending on the COVID-19 data in the county, so the hospital does not anticipate having to administer treatments on a limited supply.

“We anticipate to get more doses every week, it’s a really positive thing that we’re looking at here,” Sullenger said.

According to the release, selection of appropriate patients for the treatment will be done by the hospital’s local community of providers, and confirmed by Madison Memorial prior to administration. The hospital will be reaching out to educate local physicians regarding availability of the treatment.