SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Sanford Health is one of the first health systems in the country to open outpatient therapy centers for high-risk COVID-19 patients, offering a recently approved antibody drug, the health system announced Monday, Nov. 23.

Patients who are determined to be high risk will be treated with bamlanivimab, a COVID-19 antibody treatment made by pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly. The company received an emergency use authorization for the drug from the Food and Drug Administration on Nov. 9. Sanford Health received allocations of the drug from state departments of health.

Sanford Health is based in Sioux Falls, with major medical centers in Fargo, N.D., and Bemidji, Minn., as well as hundreds of clinics across its Upper Midwest footprint of largely rural states. The health system plans to uses it rural presence to provide access to medications under investigation for clinical trials related to COVID-19, as well as the bamlanivimab drug.

The monoclonal antibody treatment, which is delivered via a one-time infusion, has been shown to prevent some high-risk patients from developing into severe cases of COVID-19 and sending them to the hospital.

Sanford Health said it will follow the FDA's guidelines for the drug and prioritize patients who are 65 and older and have a chronic condition, or patients who are 55 and older with two or more chronic conditions.

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The administration of the drug, which must be ordered by a physician, will be offered once a nurse reviews a patients medical records to see if they fit the profile of those who can receive it.

“At Sanford, we’re taking the future into our own hands,” said Dr. Allison Suttle, Sanford Health chief medical officer, in a statement. “Today is a huge win-win for our patients and our staff. We now have a treatment that will help protect our most vulnerable populations from developing serious complications from COVID-19. By preventing hospitalizations, we will reduce the strain on our health system and frontline health care workers.”