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UND graduate on point to distribute monoclonal antibodies for COVID-19

For the past two months, Dr. Joshua Ranum has worked with the North Dakota Department of Health to coordinate the distribution of Bamlanivimab and Casirivimab The work has paid off because the state now is one of the leaders in the United States in its administration, according to Ranum.

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Dr. Joshua Ranum

A monoclonal antibody that is proving to be effective for treating certain groups of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 or who show symptoms of the illness, is readily available in health care facilities across North Dakota, according to Dr. Joshua Ranum, an internist at West River Health Services in Hettinger.

The monoclonal antibodies, marketed under the names Bamlanivimab and Casirivimab, are used to treat COVID-19 in people aged 65 and those aged 12 and older who are not hospitalized, said Ranum, vice president of the North Dakota Medical Association and a 2008 graduate of the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences. Those two groups are given Bamlanivimab or Casirivimab, through an hour-long infusion therapy.

Insurance companies are covering the cost of the treatment, and, if people are not insured, that hasn’t been a barrier to treatment, Ranum said.

The monoclonal antibodies for treatment of COVID-19 were approved in November for people with risk factors for COVID-19, but not ill enough to be hospitalized. Health care facilities were so overwhelmed with treating people with severe COVID-19 cases that the monoclonal antibody treatment for milder cases “kind of landed with a thud,” Ranum said.

“It arrived with little fanfare and little adoption,” he said. “This was a problem across the nation.”

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In December, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and a North Dakota Health Department of Health team were analyzing COVID-19 treatments, including monoclonal antibodies and were impressed with what the data showed. The department then began distributing Bamlanivimab and Casirivimab to health care facilities across North Dakota.

“It’s been given all over the state,” Ranum said. “Every hospital in the state has been offered access.”

About 2,000 people in North Dakota who had mild to moderate COVID-19, most of them 65 and older, have received the monoclonal antibody treatment, Ranum said.

“As it’s come on, we’re now seeing a reduction in deaths and severe consequences from COVID-19. It’s a really powerful tool,” he said, noting that, because the monoclonal antibody treatments are given shortly after the onset of COVID-19, it decreases the viral load on the body, enabling it to heal more quickly.

"Patients typically begin feeling better 24 hours after they receive the antibody treatment,” Ranum said. “It is impressive how quickly people start to feel better. That’s been the surprising benefit of it.”

For the past two months, Ranum has worked with the North Dakota Department of Health to coordinate the distribution of Bamlanivimab and Casirivimab The work has paid off because the state now is one of the leaders in the United States in its administration.

Though Ranum knew that pandemics are part of human history, he, like others, was surprised when one hit. However, he is taking treating COVID-19 patients in stride.

“It’s part of taking what comes with the job, whether that’s a pandemic or a motor vehicle accident or any of the other things that come with being a physician,” Rnaum said.

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Ranum said he enjoys his work at West River Health Services and chose to move back to western North Dakota – he grew up in Scranton – because he likes the area . He also was impressed with his employer when he did a rotation there during medical school at UND.

“That cemented it,” he said.

Related Topics: CORONAVIRUS
Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: abailey@agweek.com or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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