On October 2nd, 2020, the White House announced that President Trump will be receiving an experimental treatment for the COVID virus after he tested positive.
Although his symptoms are relatively mild, he started a course of Remdesivir, which is an antiviral drug. In addition to Remdesivir, he was treated with an experimental drug cocktail as a precautionary measure, which ultimately resulted in the president being cured within 48 hours.
What Are Antibodies and How Do They Work?
Antibodies are molecules produced by our body’s immune system to fight against infection. They are being studied to help with the development of a vaccine against COVID-19.
The vaccines essentially induce our body to produce more antibodies, which then assist in preventing the virus from infecting more cells because a high level of antibodies can neutralize the virus. However, these antibodies also differ in their type and therefore, function. Different types of antibodies bind to different parts of the human red blood cells.
It is through these antibodies that we build immunity to viral infections. For example, the vaccine known as the flu shot was invented to build our immunity against influenza. An antibody test checks for these antibodies in your blood to see if your body has responded to this newly introduced infection.
Different from the test for coronavirus, which looks for indications of the active virus, an antibody test shows that you may have had the virus in the past and may still be contagious. This is because your antibodies stay in your body for some time even after the infection has been taken care of.
Trump and Regeneron
The antibody cocktail that Trump has received has been made by the biotech company Regeneron, whose CEO knows Mr. Trump personally. He has received this cocktail in addition to several other drugs, including vitamin D, zinc, melatonin, daily aspirin and famotidine, the heartburn medicine, also known as “Pepcid.”
This drug remains unapproved for emergency use by the FDA. However, in cases where there is a danger that the patient might die, this drug can be administered to them, provided that other options have remained unfruitful as per the Right to Try Act.
It was Mr. Trump’s own medical staff that requested the company’s permission to use their drug and Regeneron was more than happy to oblige. Since this is not the first time this drug has been used for compassionate use cases and the decision about whether or not to give out the drug is made on a case-to-case basis, Regeneron was willing to let the President use it.
The drug that was taken by the President initially, called Remdesivir, is also an unapproved antiviral drug that showed positive results in clinical trials concerning hospitalized patients who were at a later and therefore, more dangerous stage of the disease. However, it is not yet proven to be a safe enough drug to use for this purpose, let alone effective.
Some of the drugs from the antibody cocktail that Trump is using right now have been studied with regards to the coronavirus, but for now, none of them have been proven to be effective. But since Mr. Trump signed the “Right to Try” law in 2018, he can, as a patient, request his doctors to give him an experimental treatment from a company whose products haven’t yet been approved by the FDA. Given that this drug passed the safety trials, it was well within the patient’s rights to request the drug, especially since a law allowing such a request was available.
Regeneron is one of two companies that have covered the most ground in trying to find a cure for the coronavirus by developing “monoclonal antibodies”. These are basically powerful antibodies that serve to fight infections and produce more antibodies in large amounts. Simply put, they make the body’s own immune system stronger so that it can fight against the viral infection and eradicate it by itself.
Regeneron said that this cocktail of two antibodies has shown results in the form of reduced recovery times and reduced signs of viral infections in the nasal region. Regeneron also reported that the patients they used the drug on were initially not producing antibodies of their own, and their symptoms would improve greatly within a week.
The dose Trump was given, however, was higher than the dose normally given to patients, twice as much to be exact.
The final result and which has been approved by the FDA is Pzifer’s vaccine that is currently being given to first responders and the elderly. This vaccine does not contain Remdesivir but does contain an assortment of other ingredients needed to fight off the disease.