Trump praises Regeneron’s COVID-19 antibody treatment with no real proof: All you need to know

There are only early indications that REGN-COV2 works, or that it could, against COVID-19.

Trump praises Regeneron's COVID-19 antibody treatment with no real proof: All you need to know

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at the White House in Washington, July 28, 2020. Trump devolved into self-pity during the White House coronavirus briefing on Tuesday, lamenting that his approval ratings were lower than those of two top government medical experts. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)

US President Donald Trump’s bout with COVID-19 began when he tested positive on 1 October. The following day, President Trump took an experimental COVID-19 treatment – an 8 gram dose of US drugmaker Regeneron’s double-antibody cocktail ‘REGN-COV2’. The treatment is still under investigation, in two separate trials. One is a Phase 2/3 clinical trial for its use as a treatment for COVID-19, and the other, a Phase 3 trial for COVID-19 prevention in households with a COVID-infected individual. President Trump has been celebrating the dose of antibodies he was given, claiming it helped him vanquish COVID-19 in record time.

Now, the interest in Regeneron’s COVID-19 treatment has soared, and so has the company’s stock. Regeneron, the company making the antibody treatment, also announced that they submitted an application to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use approval of its experimental antibody cocktail. After all, the President had sung its praises earlier that same day (with no evidence to support), as a “cure” for the Coronavirus.

“I want to get you the same care that I got, I got incredible treatment at Walter Reed Medical Center, with incredible doctors, and this one medicine, in particular, was unbelievable. You are going to get the same medicine, and you are going to get it free, and soon. The medicine is made by a number of companies its totally safe, but it is powerful against this disease,” Trump said in his video address, posted on Twitter.

The REGN-COV2 cocktail given to Trump was a combination of two different ‘monoclonal antibodies’ against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Monoclonal antibodies are synthetic duplicates of antibodies, which are one of the most important weapons of the immune system in fighting off infection. Researchers have been of the opinion that antibody treatments could offer some added immunity to patients with COVID-19, helping them fight off the infection sooner.

There’s no way of knowing

Regeneron’s treatment is a cocktail of two powerful antibodies that are thought to boost immune response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. In a press release sharing key early results from Phase 1/2 trials, the company said the cocktail lowered virus levels in people who had not made their own antibodies. However, no data was made public to back up its claim. Also, Phase 2/3 clinical trials for the antibody cocktail are still underway.

There’s no way of knowing – even if Trump claims it – that the relief he got was from the RGN-COV2 treatment. Trump was initially treated with dexamethasone – an anti-inflammatory steroid that is being used for advanced cases of COVID-19, and rarely recommended for early treatment, as per an Al Jazeera report. It was given in response to the low-oxygen episodes he was experiencing. The report adds that he was also on a 5-day course of Remdesivir (infusions) and supplemental oxygen on one occasion.

In fact, the cocktail of treatments he was given for COVID-19 before REGN-COV2 make President Trump a prime candidate to be excluded from clinical trials for the drug. Trump’s recovery can’t be used a yardstick to measure its effectiveness on anyone else, let alone the masses.

Trump praises Regenerons COVID19 antibody treatment with no real proof All you need to know

Representational image. Credit: Agilent Technologies

No evidence of it being a good treatment, nor a ‘cure’

Trump shared a five-minute video endorsement for REGN-COV2 on 8 October via Twittertouting its efficacy and promoting it by name as a “cure” for the coronavirus. The president’s own health updates cast a shadow of uncertainty on the treatment’s effectiveness, as per a report in The New Republic. 

“There is zero evidence that he is ‘cured,’ and even if he’s getting better, there is nothing to prove it was (or wasn’t) the Regeneron treatment,” associate professor of emergency medicine and public health at Brown University, Dr Megan Ranney, told TNR. “Moreover, claiming ‘miracle cures’ already got people in trouble with hydroxychloroquine and bleach; I wish the president had learned to wait before making these hyperbolic statements.”

Preliminary trial results from REGN-COV2 in volunteers were shared in a 29 September press release by the company. It claims the treatment lowered SARS-CoV-2 viral load in patients with mild COVID-19. With clinical trials still underway, the company is yet to release detailed data to support this claim.

Doctors around the world are following the lead of medical councils to dictate their treatment guidelines, but there are only early indications that REGN-COV2 works, or that it could, against COVID-19.

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