What is Remdesivir and why is the president being treated with it? Those are questions on many American’s minds as President Donald Trump undergoes treatment for COVID-19.
Although Remdesivir has been described as an experimental medicine, it’s more common than some might expect. According to Dr. David Banach, an infectious disease expert and epidemiologist at UConn’s John Dempsey Hospital, it has been used for months.
“It had been used in a clinical trial but more recently it had been approved through emergency use authorization by the FDA,” said Banach.
Banach said any hospitalized patient with COVID-19 can get Remdesivir. The antibody cocktail is delivered intravenously and works to directly attack the virus.
“It’s administered to patients who have COVID-19 in order to dramatically reduce the amount of virus that is circulating in the body,” said Banach, explaining it can only be given to hospitalized patients.
Dr. Helen Boucher, Chief of Infectious diseases at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, took part in the clinical trials for Remdesivir. Data published in May indicated the drug lessened the length of a patients’ hospital stays on average by about four days.
“What we know is that patients treated with Remdesivir get better, faster,” said Boucher.
According to the president’s physician, Dr. Sean Conley on Saturday morning, the resident is not currently on oxygen. Boucher, though, said this drug is normally used on patients who are.
“In general, Remdesivir is recommended when patients have moderate to severe COVID-19. When they need oxygen supplementation, where their oxygen saturation is below 94%,” said Boucher.
Banach said Remdesivir is normally used in the early stages of the disease and on sicker patients but said this may not be a reflection on the president’s condition.
“It can be given to any patient who is hospitalized. So, I don’t think it’s easy to make any concrete conclusions simply based on the fact that he’s getting this medication,” said Banach.
In addition, Trump is being treated with monoclonal antibodies to boost his immune system. These are antibodies that specifically target the germs that cause the COVID-19 virus.
“Remdesivir has activity in which it directly kills the virus. Where the monoclonal antibodies are basically the antibodies that we all produce in response to infection,” Banach explained.
According to Dr. Sean Conley, the president will receive this antiviral treatment for five days. He was given the first dosage at Walter Reed Hospital on Friday.