HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — Hospitals across the nation, including the Eastern Carolinas, are having to prioritize the patients who need monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19 as a shortage of the medication continues.

There are currently three FDA authorized antibody treatments, but only one has proven to be effective against the omicron variant.

“The allocation that the government has of this particular product is much smaller because it was the last monoclonal antibody to come into the market,” said Jessica Swindler, who oversees the inversion therapy at McLeod Health.

She and other local health experts agree a smaller number of available doses and the surge in omicron cases contributed to the shortage.

“That has put a very big strain on all of the hospitals and healthcare providers who are trying to provide this kind of therapy because we can’t even get enough of the product to be able to accommodate the most vulnerable patients, which are our immuno-suppressed population, our unvaccinated population, the elderly, and the pregnant in particular,” she said.

Dr. Gerald Harmon, the Vice President of Medical Affairs at Tidelands Health, agrees the antibodies would be easier to come by if there were fewer cases.

“I know we could use some more of them,” he said. “Not so much because of a lack of supplies, but because of the overwhelming number of positives. South Carolina set a record today at over 19,000 new cases. That is unthinkable that we are at that level right now. This is not rationing. This is rational use of a limited supply.”

While antibodies are in short supply, so are COVID-19 tests. Conway Medical Center was one of the only health systems in the area to continue offering drive-thru testing for asymptomatic people. Leaders there announced they would end that after Friday.

“We don’t want to do this. We have provided somewhere in excess of 30,000 tests for people over the last several weeks and we want to be able to continue to do that,” CMC Chief Medical Officer, Paul Richardson said. “However, given the current supply chain of testing, we can’t do it.”

McLeod Health will treat patients with Remdesivir in an out-patient setting for the first time on Monday.

“We’re doing that to offset the supply gap with the monoclonal antibodies and hopefully let the oral therapies supply catch up to get us through this surge for the next couple of weeks,” Swindler said. “We have to take this precious resource right now and make sure it is going to the people who might need it most.”