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What we know about President Trump’s treatment so far

President Trump, who has been hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, has been given a five-day dose of remdesivir and another experimental treatment that has not yet been authorized by the FDA for treating COVID-19. ProPublica reporter Caroline Chen joins to discuss the President’s treatment and when there may be a vaccine available.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    There are a lot of questions about the drugs that the president has been given for COVID-19 and when there might be a vaccine that is readily available for all.

    I spoke about that earlier with ProPublica health reporter Caroline Chen.

  • Caroline Chen:

    At this point, what we know is that the president has received one antibody cocktail made by Regeneron, which is an experimental treatment. This has not actually been authorized by the FDA yet for the use against the coronavirus. So we can talk about that later on a little bit more in detail. And then he's also, as of last night, received remdesivir, which has been authorized by the FDA for COVID treatment. So those are the two drugs he's received.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    OK. And the experimental drug. Why would you give that to the president?

  • Caroline Chen:

    Yes. So that's an interesting choice. And I don't know. Obviously, I'm not in touch with the president's physician. So there is specific thinking there they'd have to explain to the American people.

    What we do know about this antibody cocktail is that there's a little bit of data that was shared actually just a few days ago from about 275 people in this ongoing trial, which showed that the high dose of that treatment, which is what the president received, reduce the viral load of the viral levels in the patients. And it was given to patients who were not hospitalized. So it is intended for sort of that earlier stage.

    And both of these drugs, actually, both Regeneron's drug and remdesivir are both drugs that are intended to sort of reduce the amount of viral load you have, to reduce the amount of virus that's replicating in your body. And so in theory, it kind of makes sense that you want to give it earlier on because you want to stop the virus from replicating in your body.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    The president has access to arguably the best medical care on the planet. One of the things that people are wondering is, well, does he get a vaccine? Is there anything that's close to approval that he could have access to or where are we when it comes to vaccines?

  • Caroline Chen:

    At this point, we don't have any indication that we have a vaccine or a vaccine that's close to knowing whether one is successful or not. The one that is closest to the front of the line is Pfizer's and we don't yet have any data that indicates we know that it is effective. So I don't think that that would be an option for the president at this point in time.

    But the way vaccines work is that they're supposed to stimulate your immune system so that you can generate antibodies against something that looks like the virus, and actually Regeneron's treatment is what's called an antibody cocktail. And so they have basically synthetic antibodies, which are manmade versions of your own immune system's weapons against, you know, outside invaders. And so in a way, I wouldn't compare it to a vaccine, but it is similarly supposed to be helping you fight against the virus.

    So that's why these antibody cocktails are considered one of the most promising treatments that we might have against the coronavirus. And the hope is that as Regeneron continues to do these trials, that we'll be able to see, not only can they help reduce levels of the virus, which is what we're starting to see in the early trial data, which looks promising, but also that we would, as the trials go on, see whether it can actually help, you know, reduce mortality, reduce hospitalization, actually make a difference to the clinical course of the disease.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    So are there a lot of companies that are working on these solutions?

  • Caroline Chen:

    Yeah, there are definitely a good number of companies working on this type of treatment as well. The difficulty with this type of drug is that they're hard to mass-produce. So because they are biologics and they need to be sort of grown in these great tanks. So that is the one difficulty with this type of drug. And so the hope is that, you know, the industry can come together and if there's a successful one, be able to work to make them in vast quantities.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    All right. Caroline Chen of ProPublica, thanks so much.

  • Caroline Chen:

    Thanks for having me.

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