Japan to expand use of COVID antibody cocktail

Japan's health ministry says it will allow doctors to administer a COVID-19 antibody cocktail treatment to patients across the nation who are isolating at home, once safety has been confirmed.

The treatment was authorized in July and is the first to be approved for patients with non-serious symptoms. Patients receive two drugs by IV drip simultaneously to suppress the virus.

The treatment initially targeted hospitalized patients. In August, the ministry began allowing outpatients and those isolating at hotels and temporary medical facilities to receive the treatment, subject to certain conditions.

On Thursday, the ministry said it would allow the treatment for patients isolating at home on a trial basis by a limited number of medical institutions. It cited reports of rare but severe reactions, including fever and a decline in oxygen saturation in the blood.

But the ministry decided on Friday to expand the treatment to patients nationwide on condition that doctors monitor their condition for 24 hours after the drugs are administered.

The ministry said it will check in advance whether medical institutions have a system in place to monitor patients isolating at home and ensure their safety.

The health ministry said there is no change to the government's stance that it will carefully assess whether safety can be ensured for patients recuperating at home in allowing the treatment.