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In-Depth: One facet of Trump's treatment not available to the public, still in clinical trials

Donald trump
Doctors set to give update on Trump's health Sunday morning
Posted at 6:07 PM, Oct 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-06 18:23:03-04

CLEVELAND — President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he plans on participating in next week's debate. And if his series of tweets is any indication, President Trump is feeling better after his weekend stay at Walter Reed. President Trump's treatment during his brief hospitalization with coronavirus-related symptoms is quite similar to that of an average patient in Northeast Ohio with one notable difference, a medical expert said.

Dr. Keith Armitage, an infectious disease specialist at University Hospitals, said President Trump's treatment, which included remdesivir, an anti-viral, and dexamethasone, a corticosteriod, is a common course of action for any COVID-19 patient that is need of supplemental oxygen.

"These are very common treatments that a lot of hospitalized patients get, the treatments that are pretty much available in every hospital in the US," Dr. Armitage said. "The unique thing about the President's treatment was this cocktail of monoclonal antibodies."

Those antibodies, which are manufactured from recovered from patients that survived COVID-19, have shown success in early clinical trials but have not been authorized by the FDA for emergency use. Created by biotech firm, Regeneron, the antibody cocktail is still considered experimental but patients can appeal to the FDA for "compassionate use," which allows patients to gain access to investigational or experimental medical products. The process, health officials said, can be long and arduous.

Regeneron's antibody therapy has featured promising results in a limited trial of less than 300 people.

"It does seem promising. It seems like potentially the next new treatment after remdesivir and dexamethasone," Dr. Armitage said. "The unique thing is getting this manufactured mixture of monoclonal antibodies that has been tried in patients around the United States and is still being tried in clinical trials but is not yet available outside of clinical trials. The president is probably the only person that I am aware of that got these products outside the context of the clinical trial."

On Monday and again on Tuesday, President Trump appeared to downplay the risk associated with COVID-19, saying "don't be afraid of COVID" and "don't let it dominate your life." A tweet on Tuesday afternoon from President Trump was also flagged as misleading by Twitter. In that tweet, President Trump incorrectly asserted that the seasonal flu is less lethal than COVID-19 and that sometimes flu deaths top 100,000. Since 2010, there have been between 12,000 and 61,000 flu deaths per season.

Despite the United States only accounting for 4% of the total world population, the country accounts for 20% of the world's COVID deaths. Dr. Armitage said it is vital for people not to let their guard down when it comes to the coronavirus.

"The risk is still there. I think we need to continue to take precautions until we get to the very end. We're getting more effective treatments. We're getting vaccines. I think the data on vaccines is very promising," Dr. Armitage said. "People need to hang in there. It's a pandemic. Keep wearing a mask until we get to the end. I don't think the end is more than a few months off."