Local doctor explains lifesaving COVID treatment he gave nursing home patients to federal health officials

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FORT EDWARD, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A local doctor was called on by the federal government for insight into a COVID-19 antibody treatment he used in a Capital Region nursing home. He helped save lives using the treatment, but it wasn’t easy for him to get.

Dr. Philip Gara is the medical director at Fort Hudson Nursing Home in Fort Edward. A month ago, he was working against the clock and trying to prevent another potential outbreak as the coronavirus vaccine was still being rolled out.

“I was scrambling around figuring out where do I get these things,” he recalled. “One hospital didn’t have them; the others had them.”

He was in the search of monoclonal antibodies, which are bioengineered in a lab and designed to target the spike proteins in the coronavirus.

“Saratoga Hospital graciously gave us the vials to bypass bureaucracy,” he said. “Time was of the essence.”

All 19 people who received the treatment survived.

“If you get the antibodies within 48 hours, that’s a game changer.”

An official with Health and Human Services in Washington heard of Dr. Gara’s efforts through a family member in the Capital Region.

“It was a hometown story to him,” Dr. Gara said. “He wanted to know what my experience was in trying to get these antibodies and going around the system to find them.”

He shared his data and story in a virtual meeting Thursday afternoon.

“They are interested in trying to get groups around the country — doctor groups — and Zoom call them to get the information out,” Dr. Gara explained. “More importantly, they want to pre-stage the antibodies in regions so that nursing homes have access to them.”

Even with the vaccine rollout, Dr. Gara said facilities like his may still need the treatments.

“I think it’s going to prevent a lot of tragedies going forward,” he said. “We’re not out of the woods by any means, and with these variants out there that are more virulent, then the more tools we have.”

The next step is to get the information out to more docotrs.

“Some exciting stuff coming out. They’re trying to get emergency authorization to use these monoclonal prophylactically.”

If so, doctors might be able to use the treatment as a preventative measure instead of waiting until a patient tests positive.

“It was nice to hear my gut check proved correct that the quicker you move, the more likely it is to work.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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