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Maine CDC: Pursue COVID treatments that can prevent hospitalization

The Maine CDC said people could lessen the burden on the hospital system if they take therapeutics at the onset of COVID symptoms.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday that COVID patients in the state are not taking enough advantage of the treatments that could keep them from developing more severe symptoms that lead to hospitalization.

In Maine, hospitalizations have been trending downward consistently for about two weeks

The Maine CDC said people could lessen the burden on the hospital system if they take therapeutics at the onset of COVID symptoms.

Dr. Isaac Benowitz said Maine has enough supply of monoclonal antibodies and oral antiviral pills to treat roughly 1,500-2,000 COVID patients per month and that more supplies come each week. 

These medications have high levels of efficacy for keeping people out of the hospital, Benowitz said.

"I want to save lives. I want to keep our hospitals open for people with COVID and for people with other conditions. These drugs can have a really huge impact," Benowitz said.

The state has access to two monoclonal antibodies that combat the omicron variant: Sotrovimab and Bebtelovimab. The latter just received emergency use authorization from the FDA on Friday.

These require a single IV injection at an infusion center, meaning not every doctor's office can give these treatments.

Doctors use these treatments on people with mild-to-moderate COVID to keep it from getting worse.

There are also two antiviral pills: Paxlovid, made by Pfizer, and Molnupiravr, made by Merck.

Benowitz said Pfizer's is 85% effective at preventing hospitalization, compared to Merck's 30%, which he said is still helpful.

Patients must start using these pills within five days of symptoms and keep taking them for five days.

After an evaluation, a doctor can order it for their patient, which Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said was a necessary step in receiving these treatments.

"Vaccination is still the best way to keep you healthy and prevent COVID infection and prevent severe disease. But for people who get COVID, when you are a few days into the illness, and you only have mild symptoms, that's really the time to get one of these treatments," Benowitz said. "There's a real opportunity to keep COVID as a mild illness and not progress to hospitalization or death."

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