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'Bam' Being Explored As A Coronavirus Treatment

Eli Lilly and Company

There’s a new sheriff in town in the treatment of the coronavirus, now being offered by, among others, Ascension-Sacred Heart Hospital

“It’s taken a while to figure out how to pronounce this thing in full; it’s kind of a tongue-twister — Bamlanivimab.  We just call it ‘Bam’ for short,” said Dr. Peter Jennings, Chief Medical Officer at Ascension Sacred Heart Health System.

Bam, an Eli Lilly and Company product, is what’s called an investigational medicine used to treat non-hospitalized adults and adolescents 12 years and up with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms and who are at high risk for developing more severe symptoms. 

“The theory behind it is that it coats COVID with antibody, and the receptor that binds to your normal cell, it coats that too,” Jennings said. “Your body then recognizes this coated virus as foreign, which is the whole principle behind the immune response, and will take it out of your system.”

More than 300 patients have received the therapy at Ascension Hospitals in Pensacola and Panama City — roughly two-thirds of them in Pensacola. Plans are to begin soon at the system's hospital in Miramar Beach. Those qualifying for Bam must meet very specific criteria.

“Diabetes, being overweight, kidney disease, some sort of immunosuppressive disease, recently receiving chemotherapy,” said Jennings. “Those things put you at a significant higher risk of developing a severe infection. Bam is right now restricted to those people that are at significant risk, but yet are not hospitalized.”

Bam is administered on an outpatient basis by infusion. Jennings says when it first became available, they thought it would be given to just a smattering of patients — perhaps a dozen per month.

“But the supply increased and ended up having such significant anecdotal responses; we haven’t had the full research report yet,” said Jennings. “But the primary care physicians in the community have really homed in on this therapy, especially for their at-risk elderly population.”

The key for successful treatment with Bam, says Jennings, is catching COVID-19 early.

“If you’re to the point where an at-risk individual that now needs to be admitted to the hospital, it’s too late —  you wouldn’t qualify for Bam therapy,” Jennings said. “So that’s why it’s so important to time this so that: you’re symptomatic, you’re positive, and you go immediately to get the infusion, as opposed to waiting.”

There are some new studies that focus on the in-patient side of the Bam research, but at this point Jennings says Ascension is not taking part. In fact, very few centers are. He adds the Bam trial timeline is pretty much open-ended.

“I think that right now, as long as it’s approved as an EUA — Emergency Use Authorization by the [Food and Drug Administration], we’ll continue to provide that,” said Jennings. “So many of these medications like Remdesivir started as an EUA and has now gotten full approval. That would be what I would see the future state of Bam.”

More information about Bam antibody therapy is available through your healthcare provider, or call 850-416-LUNG.