Private hospitals prescribing monoclonal antibody treatments for elderly patients and patients with comorbidities despite there being no clear evidence of it being effective against the Omicron strain of Covid-19 were practising "unethical, immoral" medicine, said India's top virologist Dr Gagandeep Kang.
Narrating the story of a 90 year-old diabetic uncle who reached out to her to say that he had been told to get admission into a private hospital and get monoclonal antibody treatment after contact with someone who had Covid-19, Dr.Kang condemned the practise as "unscientific" and urged the medical fraternity to practise better medicine in a Twitter thread.
"We know that 90% or greater infections are currently omicron in Indian cities. We know that the licensed monoclonal antibody products in India do not neutralise omicron. Yet doctors in private hospitals are prescribing monoclonal antibody therapy," she tweeted.
She stated that most contacts would develop only mild symptoms and most remained asymptomatic. However more data was needed to see how vaccinated elderly patients reacted to infections by the Omicron variant she said. Currently only a small number had shown signs of severe illness.
"In any case, all the ones who would have gotten better anyway will do fine—but having given antibodies, doctors will ascribe that to their treatment and the hospitals will laugh all the way to the bank," Dr. kang added.
Monoclonal antibody therapy, once hailed as 100 per cent effective in stopping Covid-19 in its tracks, has been defeated by the new super-mutant Omicron variant, according to a latest non-peer reviewed global study involving researchers from the US, Japan and Switzerland.
Doctors in India said they had been inundated with calls from patients seeking the antibody cocktail treatment but that it would not be as effective as it was with the Delta variant. A single dose of treatment can cost anywhere from ₹65,000 to ₹1 lakh and above.
Another study led by researchers from Columbia University in the US, in collaboration with scientists at the University of Hong Kong, said that Omicron has the potential to evade the immune protection conferred by vaccines and natural infection, as well as render most monoclonal antibody therapies ineffective.The study suggested that all of the monoclonal antibody therapies currently in use and most in development are much less effective against Omicron, if they work at all.