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FHC Practice Director Lorrie Imes Holds a Box of Monoclonals
 
BREAKING NEWS: Small Town Primary Care Office Launches Big Missile in the War Against COVID-19
By Editor Becky Watts

ZEBULON - While the country continues to debate vaccinations and masks, Allan Imes, PA-C, co-founder of Family Health Clinic, has decided to focus his attention on treatments. Among many treatments, Allan saw hope in monoclonal antibody infusions.

Pike County Times had heard about the monoclonal antibody infusion but did not know much about it before just a few weeks ago. A discussion on social media turned into an interview with Allan, and he sure had a lot to say!

Allan is full of scientific facts, but he was NOT shy about giving his opinion as well. He pointed out that the providers at the Zebulon and McDonough Family Health Clinics have taken a personal interest in finding the next best thing to battle this pandemic.

These staff members are sacrificing their own health and time from their families to help families in our local community as well as the greater Atlanta area. Many rural towns in our area have limited access to medical care.

Monoclonal antibody treatments have been available for quite some time, but the media has largely ignored it.

Hopefully this article will provide awareness to our community as well as to friends and neighbors throughout the state. This is a very effective treatment for Covid and has saved the lives of some of your friends and neighbors already. The end of the article contains some testimonies from local residents who credit monoclonal antibodies with saving their lives.

Who Is Family Health Clinic?

Family Health Clinic has been working to find the best testing and treatments for Covid for quite a while. While many providers were shutting their doors to those with Covid symptoms, Family Health Clinic worked with distributors to obtain rapid in-office testing and treatments.

Lines quickly formed outside of their doors with people from all over Georgia who were driving to these small-town clinics to find the help that they were desperately looking for. Even today, with too few rooms and too few staff, Family Health Clinic continues to help as many as they can.

Almost two years into this pandemic, Family Health Clinic has filled a major gap between availability of treatment and our overwhelmed hospitals both here in our community and around the state.

With many medical providers turning away patients, Family Health Clinic has become one of the only sources of COVID-19 treatment in Pike County and the surrounding communities. This little two location family health provider is battling a global pandemic, and those who have been helped are vocal with their gratitude!

Family Health Clinic is a primary care medical practice that treats all ages. Their approach to care, centers around family--treating every patient like he or she is their own mother or child.

For this reason, they continue to research and offer every available resource that a family practice can give in order to provide immediate care for both acute and chronic illnesses.

Family Health Clinic’s team of providers has a vast experience in many types of healthcare including but not limited to emergency medicine, cardiology, intensive care, family practice, and urgent care. They utilize tools such as in-house x-ray, ultrasound, IV administration, and an in-house laboratory that is second to none in primary care. And there is much more!

Family Health Clinic has two locations: Zebulon and McDonough. They are open 7 days a week with no appointment needed. Most insurance is accepted, and rates are low for self-pay patients.

The Zebulon office is located at 230 Plaza Drive in Zebulon, Ga 30295 and the McDonough office is located at 1631 Highway 20 W in McDonough, Ga 30253. The office line is 770-288-2822, and there is much more information on the website at www.fhcares.net

Allan Imes is a Physician’s Assistant and a co-founder of the Clinic. Their full list of providers include: Onika Popo-James, DO, Donna Haney, MD, Chetan Sharma, MD, Allan B. Imes, PA-C, Stephanie Chandler, FNP-C, Amanda Wells, FNP-C, Brandy Blackwell, FNP-C, Rachel Smith, FNP-C, Alicia Skye Ledford, FNP-C, Serwah Amponsah, FNP-C, Christy Harrell, PA-C, Cajin Savage, PA-C, and Kashondra Harris, FNP-C.

What Are Monoclonal Antibodies?

“Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off harmful antigens such as viruses like Covid-19,” Allan said. “These are target specific antibodies.”

Using monoclonals in sick Covid patients has proven to be highly effective in keeping patients from becoming so ill that they require hospital stays, possible ventilation, and even death.

There are two ways to give this treatment: by injection or by infusion. “Diseases that were once untreatable are now treatable because of monoclonal antibodies,” Allan said.

Monoclonals are specifically made to attack the spiked protein on the COVID-19 virus, but he stressed that monoclonal antibodies have been around long before COVID-19 came into the picture.

Allan feels monoclonal antibodies will play an enormous role in the future of medicine because there are at least 64 diseases that they are either in current clinical trials for or currently used to treat. Examples include cancer, Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Multiple sclerosis (MS) and many more diseases that were once thought untreatable.

“We treat a type of lung cancer with a monoclonal antibody called Keytruda,” he said. “This type of lung cancer had an average life expectancy of 12-16 months after diagnosis.”

“Past treatments included aggressive and often intolerable chemotherapy. Now with Keytruda, we are giving many of these patients 8-12 years of quality of life. That is amazing!”

In regards to COVID-19, he said that monoclonals target the viral genetic material and not human genetic material. “They do not attack your cells.”

Allan said that he has been watching the science behind monoclonals for a long time--way before COVID-19. He said that if a person goes to the Family Health Clinic’s Facebook page, there is lots of information and research that goes back almost two years.

The name of the monoclonal antibodies treatment is Regen 2.

Injection or Infusion?

There are two different ways to administer monoclonal antibodies that are being used in the state of Georgia right now: injection and infusion. There are a few clinics and hospitals in the state of Georgia that have opened monoclonal injection clinics, but there is a difference between injecting the medication and giving an IV infusion to the patient.

Giving an injection is the easy way and takes a little less time, but giving an infusion is much more effective according to clinical trials. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for monoclonals is quite clear on this.

Allan said, “The package inserts on Regen 2 do not recommend Sub Q injections (unless IV access is unattainable) because the efficacy (rate of effectiveness) is significantly lower than IV infusion.”

He went on to say that independent clinical trials on IV infusions (trials NOT done by the company itself) show a 70-80% reduction in hospitalizations, ventilations, and death.

“So, what we are looking at, is keeping 8 out of 10 people out of the hospital,” he said. “It is not designed for the sickest of the sick, but it’s designed for the moderately ill to the mildly ill to keep them out of the hospital and keep them from progressing to the point of severe illness.”

Why would someone offer Sub Q injections rather than the infusion? Allan said that there are several reasons, but a big one is cost.

There is a cost associated with the administration of IV therapies including supplies, the cost of employee productivity and time, and loss of productivity due to rooms being tied up for hours.

“You can get more people treated quicker with the injection, but that comes at the cost of only a 30% efficacy/rate of effectiveness,” he said. “We are giving people false security.

“While it is better than no efficacy I suppose, I just can’t get past the risk of giving people false security. I would give my mother or my daughter the IV, so that’s what I am going to do for every single one of my patients,” he said.

“Why would you take a shot and be protected at 30%, when you could be taking the infusion which is at 80%?”

What Are the Requirements?

There are requirements that the FDA has set that must be met in order to receive the monoclonal antibodies infusion at Family Health Clinic. Several things factor into the assessment on whether a patient should or should not receive monoclonal treatment as opposed to other treatments that are available.

The providers at Family Health Clinic evaluate each and every patient to determine what treatment is best. If a patient isn’t a fit for monoclonal antibodies, there are several other treatment options.

He also pointed out that even when giving antibody infusions, there is more to treating COVID than just giving patients monoclonal antibodies.

He said that the exclusionary factors are what make a difference on who can and cannot receive this infusion. These exclusionary factors can be confusing, but they matter as to whether patients qualify for the drug.

Requirements include same visit positive COVID test, having an underlying condition like diabetes, asthma, and some other illnesses, having an immune disorder, and/or having elevated body mass index. Patients also must be 12 years of age or older.

“If you require oxygen in order to sustain life, you cannot get this drug,” he said. However, he did clarify that if a patient is already on oxygen and does not require an increase to sustain life, they are candidates for the therapy.

There is a substantial difference between benefitting from some oxygen and requiring it to sustain life. “I’ve got people on oxygen that got monoclonals that did not end up in the hospital. Two weeks later, they are in here over it.”

Other factors that are examined include breathing problems, inflammatory markers, oxygen saturation and more. If your BMI is normal and you have absolutely no health problems, you are not a candidate for monoclonals, but that is not the norm for most Americans these days.

Family Health Clinic is averaging 14 to 15 infusions a day with some days running more than 25.

“I would venture to say this is more than most of our area hospitals combined,” Allan said. “This isn’t meant to insult them because we believe it is our job to keep people out of the hospital. They have enough on them treating those that we can’t!”

And it’s not unusual for Family Health Clinic employees to still be at the clinic to midnight or after--way past closing time. “Our providers, nurses and medical assistants, along with all other support staff, are heroes,” he said. “There is no question.”

“I would give every COVID positive person who walked in this door Regen 2 if I could do it,” Allan said. “If other people will join this fight, we can stop this virus with monoclonals combined with vaccinations and natural acquired immunity.”

Allan also stressed the importance of other treatment options available to patients who are sick with COVID. Even if the patient does not qualify for monoclonals, he said that they have other treatment options that are effective and available.

How Long Does It Take and What Does it Cost?

From the first point of check-in through receiving monoclonal antibodies monitoring and all other treatments, a patient could spend 4-5 hours receiving care at Family Health Clinic.

Obviously, there is a LOT more to treating a COVID patient than the 20-30 minutes it takes to administer monoclonals. Patients also have to be monitored after receiving the infusion.

In addition, time is needed to run tests and labs, give breathing treatments, get chest x-rays to check for pneumonia, and administer needed life-saving medications. That means that the office is seeing one patient in a room for 4 to 5 hours at a time, when it could have seen 6 strep throat patients an hour over that same amount of time and made triple or even quadruple the amount of money that would be made with one COVID patient.

When asked why other doctors aren’t giving Regen 2, he asked if Pike County Times wanted his opinion because it wasn’t nice. Of course, the answer was yes. He said simply, that it’s not “cost effective” for them.

“I’ve got a patient in a room for 4 to 5 hours,” he said, “and I’ll get paid based on what the insurance is going to pay me based on the treatment but not the time spent,” he said.

“In addition, the wait times that patients are experiencing hasn’t come without many criticisms,” Imes said. “Of course, when they do get to a room, they usually see the light … the 4-5 hours we spend on them is what is truly needed and they are grateful.”

Allan took this a step further and said that the decision not to do monoclonals is not only financial because COVID patients are high risk patients, and they are sick. He added that treating COVID-19 day in and day out puts the employees at great risk at Family Health Clinic.

Allan is plain spoken, so when asked specifically about the cost to a patient, he said, “It’s not cheap to get oxygen. It’s not cheap to get IV therapy. It’s not cheap to get x-rays. It’s not cheap to get the bloodwork that is required for this treatment,” he said. “But it’s cheaper than one ER visit. And it’s darn sure cheaper than being put on a ventilator in ICU. And it’s cheaper than a funeral.”

He went on to say, “If you go to the hospital, there is roughly a 30% chance of survival if you get put on a vent.”

When thinking about cost, it’s also important to know that what insurance companies say they will pay and what they actually pay are two different things. And while there is no charge for the monoclonals, there is a cost for testing and supplies required to treat and administer this infusion as well as the time spent in the office.

Finally, Family Health Clinics in Zebulon and McDonough do not diagnose COVID-19 on a presumption. COVID-19 is diagnosed in combination with a finding from a physical exam and a positive result from a nasal swab.

“Despite some opinions we hear, we are not diagnosing people with COVID-19 if they have a negative swab,” he said.

What About the Vaccine?

Allan spoke about the vaccine just long enough to say that patients should look carefully at their sources of information, because the long list of side effects for the vaccine are the same type of side effects that can be found with vaccines for the flu, chickenpox, and shingles, just to name a few.

“There is nothing to show that it alters your DNA,” he said. He pointed out that mRNA (messenger) vaccines are not new. They’ve been studying them for 15 years. There have been hopes of using them in case of another outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

“It is also important to note that the government sold the vaccine inappropriately to people,” he said. “It was sold as some sort of cure.”

He pointed out that we’ve never killed a respiratory virus with a vaccine—the common cold, flu, chickenpox, and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)—but we control outbreaks with vaccines very effectively.

“This (vaccine) did not come out in six months,” Allan said. He said that it has been studied for a long time, and that he has to explain this to his patients every single day when they ask.

He said that many providers (in general) are not taking the time to fully explain the answers to questions that patients have so many are left to get their answers from the internet.

He pointed out that complications are a legitimate question, and the source of information matters.

“Look at the percentages of the complications that can occur. Sure, complications can occur from all vaccines. Complications can occur with the flu shot and taking penicillin.”

He said that the risk of the vaccine versus the risk of a bad reaction to a COVID infection is probably 30 to 40 times more likely that you are going to have a bad outcome from COVID than the vaccine. He simply said that people are not looking at statistics correctly.

He did say that the long-term effects are not known at this time, but he said that bad things usually happen within 6 months of taking a vaccine based on history with previous vaccinations up to this point.

And he clarified that medications that have harmful effects later are different than vaccines. “What I can tell you is that over a year with this vaccine, I have become very comfortable recommending it to my own family, thus my patients.”

He said that if providers would sit down with people, talk to them about their concerns, and tell them the truth including the fact that there are side effects but that they are small in the overall picture, people would be more open to getting the vaccine.

Even though Allan is in favor of people getting the vaccine as a safety precaution, he stressed that this should be a person’s choice.

“I am 100% in favor of the vaccine,” he said. “I am also 100% opposed to [government] mandating it. In fact, I cannot ethically give someone of cognizant, sound mind, an injection of a medication that they do not want.”

Finally, he stated that monoclonal antibodies are a treatment, and they do not replace vaccines.

Closing

From the beginning, Family Health Clinic has been a huge advocate in the use of monoclonal antibody therapy in the war against COVID-19. Family Health Clinic’s Zebulon and McDonough offices started using monoclonal antibodies in January 2021.

Prior to that, Family Health Clinic lobbied the Governor's office, the Georgia Department of Health, multiple state legislators, and even several federal state legislators explaining why this valuable treatment should be started immediately.

Why it took so long has been a source of great discouragement, but Family Health Clinic and Imes are extremely excited that this therapy is now appearing to get the recognition it deserves as part of the fight against COVID-19.

“We hear infusion clinics like the state of Florida are coming to Georgia.” Allen is delighted, but he reminded everyone monoclonals are just one of many treatments needed to fight COVID-19.

“Monoclonals alone are not enough,” he said. “Visit your primary to get other necessary treatments!”

Family Health Clinic has been and will be more than willing to share their entire treatment plan with any medical provider or facility willing to administer care. If you need Family Health Clinics, call 770-288-2822.

COVID-19 symptomatic patients must visit Family Health Clinic of McDonough located at 1631 Hwy 20 W in McDonough, GA 30253.

For all other Primary Care and Immediate Care needs, patients may visit Family Health Clinic of Pike County located at 230 Plaza Drive in Zebulon, GA 30295. There are a few other clinics and hospitals that are providing monoclonals. https://protect-public.hhs.gov/pages/therapeutics-distribution to find one near you.

Pike County Times has been advised that some doctor’s offices and hospitals in our area also provide this treatment. Monoclonal therapy is not a good fit for every patient, but it is always good to know options when taking a loved one to find COVID related treatment.

Testimonies

Pike County Times was astounded at the number of people who have received monoclonals from Family Health Clinics in Zebulon and McDonough. (Please note that McDonough is the only location currently giving this treatment at this time.)

Their patients and their family members were NOT shy in telling their appreciation for this office and the staff who took the time to care for them in a way that kept them out of the hospital and saved their lives.

Amber Shoemake from Pike County sent by private message on Facebook:

“My husband Timmy received the antibodies at Pike Family Health Clinic and I truly believe that is what helped him recover so quickly with such mild symptoms. He was weak, tired, had a cough and lots of sneezing. He said he felt better immediately after leaving the clinic. He felt even better the following day. These antibodies should be made available everywhere to those that qualify to get them. Not only have I done lots of research but we also have our own testimony as to how well they work. I believe getting them soon enough is the key to them working so well. Allan and the team at the medical clinic are doing an amazing job with the treatment options they have available to those fighting off covid. Kudos to them for being aggressive with the treatments. This isn’t a profitable treatment for physicians but Allan Imes has made the decision that profit isn’t more important than getting people the treatment that has been shown to work. We need more physicians like that.”

Nick Kosko from Peachtree City wrote on Instagram and gave permission to be shared:

“Last week my family contracted Covid. After much research my wife and I decided to go with the Monoclonal Antibody Treatment. This is the same treatment that Trump got when he contracted Covid. After many phones calls to many doctor’s offices to see if we could find one that does this treatment a friend of ours told us about a place in McDonough that does them. There are only 3 places in Georgia who does this treatment (McDonough, Griffin and Dalton). Sunday we arrived almost 4 hours before the office opened to be one of the 25 to receive this treatment (the cut off was 25 due to office hours and we were denied the day before). We received the treatment, came home Sunday evening, and have felt pretty good since although we have had pretty much mild symptoms other than one day of moderate symptoms. This treatment is for Vaccinated and Unvaccinated. If anyone wants to know more please private message me and I will be glad to share the name of the doctor’s office as well as the time you should arrive to be able to be seen. Please do your research. They are saying this is the best treatment for Covid. I hope this helps.”

Bobbi Brooks from Lamar County sent by private message on Facebook:

“I received the REGEN 2 from Family Health Clinic and the awesome staff there! I went on a Friday morning about 11:00 and got in my car to head home at about 8:30 that night - and I was sooooo grateful to do that! It was one of the few days they hadn’t reached capacity before noon during that time. A co-worker tested positive the previous Friday. By the next Wednesday evening, I was stuffy and figured it was sinuses. By Thursday evening I was coughing and running a very low grade fever. Friday morning, I was a little short of breath and the fever was still there. Still thought sinuses - but was beginning to wonder. Then suddenly - no taste or smell- and I headed to Family Health Clinic. By mid-afternoon, sitting in my car and waiting patiently, I felt like I’d been hit by a truck and decided to get out of the car a walk a minute. Bad idea. I got woozy, really hot pretty fast and headed back to the car. As I got to the car, I guess I blacked out in the parking lot and collapsed. I was probably only out for a few seconds - got up, got in the car and turned on the AC. I kept going in and out until I could get myself cooled down. I tell you this to let you know I believe I was really headed for trouble!!! I was called in soon after. Tested positive and qualified for the monoclonal antibodies. Prior to the infusion, I was afraid I was going to have to get someone to come and drive me home and subject them to this crap!! By the time they were done with me - infusion, injections, breathing treatment and all their other care, I felt safe to drive myself home...at 8:30 that night. And I was NOT the last patient there. These folks were awesome, selfless, compassionate, understanding, concerned, knowledgeable and caring. By Saturday morning, I was feeling better - but not great. Still had a fever. When Chuck was finally able to pick up my prescriptions around noon, I started taking them. I took the Ivermectin around 1:30 pm and went to sleep. I woke up around 6 pm. No fever. No tiredness. No stuffiness. No shortness of breath. Slight productive cough. I felt good. By Sunday morning, I felt GREAT!! I continued to quarantine myself for the entire week - in my bedroom...with food and drink delivered to a dresser across the room. We attempted to use disposable items so chuck wouldn’t have to handle them after I had handled them. Our system seems to have kept him from getting it. The next Thursday, my daughter in law tested positive and received monoclonal antibodies from Family Health Clinic....and Marc on Sunday. They were not prescribed Ivermectin - but recovered nicely. I found out later that my co-worker, who is immune-compromised, also had monoclonal infusion through Family Health Clinic in McDonough when her regular doc was not able to see her - and she recovered nicely. So - I personally know 3 people close to me who have been helped! I cannot say enough about Family Health’s aggressive fight against this virus!! I am saddened and ashamed for people who call themselves medical professionals and will not fight!!!”


[Note from the Editor: To read "BREAKING NEWS: Upson Regional Medical Center Now Offers REGEN-COV Infusions for COVID Patients," click here.


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9.5.21
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