Donald Trump, back in the White House after a stay at Walter Reed Medical Centre for coronavirus treatment, says one of the treatments he was given could be a “cure” for Covid-19: an antibody therapy from drugmaker Regeneron he was given in the hospital.
“They call them therapeutics,” Mr Trump said in a Wednesday video address. “To me it wasn’t therapeutic, it just made me better. I call that a cure.” The president added that he hopes to fast-track the drug for emergency use and supply it to Americans for free. So what is it?
What is an antibody cocktail?
Regeneron, as well as drugmakers Eli Lilly, AbCellera, and GlaxoSmithKline, are currently testing antibody therapies as a way to help treat coronavirus. Antibodies are proteins the body makes to help protect against diseases, and initial results suggest they can lower the level of the coronavirus present in the body and shorten hospital stays. The Regeneron treatment is a cocktail of two different antibodies identified as useful in this regard.
They are not, as Mr Trump seems to imply in the video, a way to permanently or instantly inoculate someone against catching coronavirus on par with a vaccine.
“We have to get them approved and I want to get them to the hospitals where people are feeling badly,” he says in the post. “That’s much more important to me than the vaccine.”
How close are these drugs to public use, and who has access now?
Regeneron’s treatment is not yet authorised for emergency use by the public, but the drugmaker still can offer a small number of patients the cocktail under what’s known as “compassionate use”, where companies offer experimental treatments outside of clinical trials.
Can we take the president’s word for it?
In July the Trump administration and Regeneron agreed to a $450 million deal to produce the drug for public use if Regeneron can pass clinical trials and get either emergency or full FDA approval.
“I think this was a blessing from God that I caught it,” Mr Trump says. "I caught it. I heard about this drug. I said let me take it. It was my suggestion, and it was incredible the way it works.””
Mr Trump has a record of latching onto and promoting treatments he believes will be effective before the science catches up. Earlier this year, the president said he was taking hydroxychloroquine, a malarial drug that hasn’t been proven to treat coronavirus, and he also once suggested exploring the possibility of injecting household disinfectant into the body to fight covid – although following worldwide mockery he insisted he was being “sarcastic”.
The president’s team of doctors obviously felt the therapy was safe enough to use on the commander-in-chief, but not everyone is convinced. Dr Vinay Prasad, an associate professor of Medicine at the University of California San Francisco, tweeted last week that giving powerful people medicine that hadn’t yet been cleared for the public was “bad science, bad medicine and bad ethics”.
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