ST. LOUIS ( -- A brand new COVID-19 treatment is being used to make patients feel better, faster.

Currently, St. Joseph's Hospital in St. Charles is the only SSM hospital using bamlanivimab for treatments, a process that takes about two hours. Some patients report feeling better within just 24 hours of the treatment.

Experts say it could be revolutionary in keeping patients out of hospitals and on the road to recovery.

"This is a brand new drug, it has not been used before," said Joseph Buchanan, director of pharmacy at St. Joseph's. "What bamlanivimab does is it stops that virus from replicating. So it slows down the virus basically and increases your own body's chance of fighting off the virus."

The infusion is only effective within five days of symptom onset, but for those that have gotten it, the relief from symptoms was badly needed. 

"I basically felt like I got hit by a truck. Body aches, and my cough started getting bad," said Robert Dodd. 

Dodd, 50, first felt the effects of the infection on Christmas Day. He had no underlying health conditions, but that he was hit hard by aches and fatigue. He tested positive for COVID-19 the following day.

"I basically just isolated myself at home and just took it easy," he said. 

But Dodd got a call a few days later asking if he’d like to be treated with a new experimental drug. The treatment is not fully FDA-approved, but is approved for emergency use. It’s known to reduce the severity of symptoms and decrease sick time by two to three days.

"I mean considering how I felt at the time, with the body aches and things like that, coughing, I was willing to pretty much do anything," Dodd said. 

On December 28 he was escorted through an outside entrance to an infusion room at St. Joseph’s Hospital. The treatment, administered through an IV, took about two hours; one hour for the actual infusion and another hour where Dodd was monitored for a reaction.

"I feel like I had a little more energy once they gave me the drug," Dodd said. "I was skeptical and I was up for anything at the time, but afterward I started feeling better and I was quite amazed that it actually worked."

Now, Dodd is back to work and back to feeling like himself. He hopes the treatment will help others and eventually save lives.

"Absolutely I highly recommend it. If someone has COVID and has the symptoms I had, I highly recommend they get the drug," he said. 

So far, about 40 people have received the treatment at St. Joseph's. Medical experts say there can be mild side effects from the treatment like nausea and dizziness, but none of their patients have reported any so far. Healthcare workers' focus is to treat older, more vulnerable patients before they wind up in the hospital. Another advantage to bamlanivimab is consistency in treatment compared to convalescent plasma therapy.

"You know exactly what you’re getting with this one, with the plasma you’re getting various kinds of antibodies, with this one you know what you’re getting," said Buchanan. "The same dose for every patient."

Those who want the treatment are encouraged to ask their primary care physician about it. 

Copyright 2020 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

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