The experimental treatment given to President Trump is a reasonable move to prevent the progression of covid-19, but whether it will be effective is unknown, a senior UPMC doctor said Saturday.
“We have no idea, in the president, if it will accelerate his recovery,” said Dr. John Mellors, head of the infectious disease division and an expert in antiviral treatments for HIV and AIDS.
The problem is a lack of effective treatments for early covid infection, something that applies to Trump, who is believed to have been diagnosed on Thursday. Trump was taken to Walter Reed National Medical Center on Friday, where “very well”
The White House has confirmed that Trump has received an experimental antibody cocktail developed by the biotech company Regeneron. The company last week released the first data from a clinical study showing that the drug helped people shake up covid-19 symptoms faster and reduced the amount of the virus in their bodies.
Regeneron’s antibody drug has not received approval for emergency use from the United States Food and Drug Administration. It was provided in response to a compassionate use request.
“I’m a huge fan of antibodies to treat covid,” Mellors said. “It makes a lot of sense to me to provide a powerful neutralizing antibody.”
Regeneron said the improvements this week are based on the results of 275 trial patients. Although the clinical results are encouraging, Mellors said the company has not released primary data beyond the initial results published in a press release.
“What I’ve learned over 30 years as a researcher is that you have to see the data for yourself and be able to ask questions,” he said.
Regeneron CEO Leonard Schleifer told CNN it makes sense to continue testing the drug in light of the positive results seen so far.
“Hopefully we will give his immune system a sufficient boost so that he can overcome this and make a full recovery,” said Schleifer.
Trump is also taking the antiviral drug remdesivir, which in tests has been shown to speed recovery times for patients with the disease. Remdesivir, manufactured by Gilead Sciences, has been licensed for emergency use by the US Food and Drug Administration.
Mellors said studies have shown remdesivir to be more useful in patients requiring supplemental oxygen. There isn’t enough data to shed any light on its effectiveness early in the infection, he said.
Mellors said he is confident the biomedical community will propose better interventions against the virus.
In the meantime, the best solution is for people to wear masks.
“They’re cheap, they’re effective, and they should be used in the vast majority of situations,” he said. “To do anything less, in my mind, is irresponsible.”
Luis Fábregas is editor of the Alle-Kiski Valley content of the Tribune-Review. Follow him on Twitter @LuisTrib.
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