Bamlanivimab was developed by Vancouver company AbCellera Biologics and has been shown to reduce the impact of the disease

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Anyone in Fraser Health who has active COVID-19 and is older then 65 or has a pre-existing medical condition can now enrol in a study of the Health-Canada approved treatment drug bamlanivimab.

On Sunday, the health authority reported the initial trial that began in March had been expanded to people in Burnaby, Langley, Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows. It was initially open only to those living in Surrey, White Rock and Delta.

“As of April 26, COVID-19 patients in all communities in the Fraser Health region have the opportunity to access this drug, providing they meet the enrolment criteria,” a health authority spokesperson said in a prepared statement.

“The study is open to those in the Fraser Health region who are 65 or older, or between the ages of 18-64 who have tested positive for COVID-19 and have at least one co-morbidity (illness or condition) that places them at risk of being hospitalized for COVID-19 infection.

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“Being able to open the study to a broader section of our patients comes at a time when a multi-pronged approach is needed against COVID-19 in our communities.”

The trial at the Peace Arch Memorial Hospital was announced in February, using a $1 million donation from the Vancouver-based drug developer AbCellera Biologics.

The trial focus was on people who had recently tested COVID-19 positive and, while not seriously ill, had health complications that could worsen with the disease. The drug requires blood infusion over three-hours at an outpatient clinic attached to the hospital.

Fraser Health has reported bamlanivimab was shown to “retain activity against the UK B.1.1.7 variant, which is the predominant variant in Fraser Health.”

Bamlanivimab and remdesivir are the only COVID-19 treatment drugs granted emergency approved for use in Canada. The government has distributed bamlanivimab around the country, but it is up to provinces and territories to decide how to use the drug and what testing to do.

AbCellera was created out of a UBC biotech project and listed on the NASDAQ last December — it is valued at a little over $8 billion based on its current share price. The drug has been developed in conjunction with pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly.

dcarrigg@postmedia.com

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