DALLAS — While it’s no substitute for the COVID-19 vaccine, monoclonal antibody therapy is quickly gaining traction, especially after Gov. Greg Abbott announced recently that he received the therapy when he tested positive for the virus, and is making it available to all Texans at no cost.
As treatment for COVID-19, monoclonal antibodies are able to fight off the disease before it progresses, reducing the chance for hospitalization or death. But many people still don’t know how to get an infusion. A McKinney-based company is making it more convenient by providing concierge delivery of the treatment, but you must first have a doctor’s referral.
CourMed, a health concierge startup business from the Dallas area, has been filling the need for prescription delivery since 2018, but now the company is ensuring that COVID-19 patients who may be immunocompromised and need monoclonal antibodies are able to get that infusion on-demand for about $600, while never having to leave home. By Tuesday that $600 price tag had increased to $1,000. This is done with the help of a partnering pharmacy and qualified nurse, who comes to infuse the cocktail. While the Regeneron cocktail treatment is free for Texans with a doctor’s order, the $1,000 is the price for the convenience of the in-home IV administration through CourMed.
“The patient must have a prescription from their PCP. Once the PCP completes the prescription order, they fax [the order form] back to us and we route to the closest partnered pharmacy,” said CourMed CEO Derrick L. Miles. “We have multiple pharmacy partners in DFW, Austin and Houston locally, but also in Arizona, California and Florida. We are opening up in the San Antonio market in two weeks.”
The partnered pharmacy then calls the patient to notify him or her of the order for monoclonal antibodies and takes payment. Miles says it’s now about $1,000 cash to make a house visit, but that pales in comparison to the cost of a hospital stay.
"If you get admitted to the hospital, the average cost for a COVID-19 patient is $80,000 at the end of your stay. So we charge 600 bucks because there's a professional nurse that's in your house for two hours, she has to be paid. We have to buy the drug. You have to have a pharmacist to mix the drug. You have CourMed with the enterprise software that can track the drug going and coming in real time. So there are costs that we have that we pass on to the patient so they can get this service same day," Miles said prior to the apparent price increase.
While patients can use insurance benefits, getting approval often adds a two or three day delay, and when you’re sick with COVID-19, every day counts.
"People need to get antibodies. If you get COVID-19 You need a monoclonal antibody to make sure it doesn't progress to a hospitalization or death. So this is the thing that is really hot, it’s white hot,” Miles said.
One of the first pharmacies to partner with CourMed for these monoclonal antibody infusion deliveries was Beaker Pharmacy. Owner and chief pharmacist David Damaske said each week, the REGEN-COV™ infusion (casirivimab and imdevimab) has been highly requested and being able to administer it at home through this partnership is a game changer for patients in need.
"It's just increasing every week. It's getting more and more, especially since we launched, the word’s getting out. We're also getting a lot of calls about it as well, because it is a pretty reasonable price to have something done in their home and not have to go to the hospital or the emergency room. And yeah, so far it’s working very well,” Damaske said. “You can go to like some of the freestanding ERs and do it, they're doing it, but honestly it's probably five times the cost. More of this will probably pop up, but I think we're one of the first ones doing this: teaming up with a nursing group to infuse it, a company to deliver it and also the pharmacy to supply everything.”
Partnering with a nurse to infuse the antibodies intravenously and having an hour observation time while remaining in the home is key. This keeps patients from occupying a bed in a hospital that may already be strained for resources. Curbside Infusions has partnered with CourMed to administer the IVs in the patients’ homes.
“There's a big backlog on actually getting the medication,” said Curbside Infusion Services CEO Sonia Alizzi. "A lot of the places where you can actually get treatment have a backlog on space available for the treatment. So, obviously, as you would imagine, there's no problem with getting it in your home because there's no waiting list there.”
Miles is confident that concierge health care is the future, calling it a “billion-dollar solution." His company has partnered with McKesson and received investments from Microsoft and Google. The company can also deliver vaccines, prescriptions, supplements or other health care items to your home.
"When you think about CVS and Walgreens, they're creating all these [infusion] clinics, but you still have to leave your house to go to these clinics. We just don't believe that's the future. The future, I think, is already shown with the Uber, Lyfts and the GrubHubs, right? The future is being able to stay at home. And that's what we're doing with CourMed. And now with enterprise software and our relationship with Microsoft, we can scale this. Not only to this country, Microsoft is all over the world. So that's why we feel real comfortable that this is a billion dollar solution.”
If you’d like to see available COVID-19 therapeutic facilities in Texas, the Texas Division of Emergency Management and Texas Department of State Health Services have a database available online. Administration of Regeneron therapeutics requires a physician’s order.