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What is the experimental drug that Trump is taking?

October 3, 2020

US President Donald Trump is being treated with an experimental antibody cocktail that is yet to be peer reviewed. However, White House adviser Anthony Fauci is among those who have said it has shown promise.

In this undated image from video provided by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals on Friday, Oct. 2, 2020, scientists work with a bioreactor at a company facility in New York state, for efforts on an experimental coronavirus antibody drug.
Image: Regeneron/AP Photo/picture alliance

US President Donald Trump tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus on Friday and is being treated in a military hospital.

According to his doctor, he has been given an 8 gram, intravenous dose of an experimental drug called REGN-COV2.

How does the drug work?

The antibody cocktail REGN-COV-2 has been developed by US biotech firm Regeneron Pharmaceuticals.

It is an experimental drug that is yet to pass the peer review process, however, Regeneron has reported early success in human trials. It is administered through an IV as a one-time treatment.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved the drug for mass usage yet, but it has authorized its emergency use before the formal review is completed.

The drug is one of several experimental COVID-19 drugs known as monoclonal antibodies, which are synthetic copies of human antibodies formed by patients in the early stages of the illness. 

Regeneron's drug contains an antibody made by the company, as well as antibodies from patients who have recovered from COVID-19. The two antibodies bind to the coronavirus' spike protein, limiting the ability of the virus to escape.

It has this 'cocktail' of two antibodies so that it has a better chance of working in case the virus mutates. 

Scientists selected the antibodies by analyzing genetically modified mice, and choosing two antibodies that were most potent while not competing with each other. 

The company said the most recent trials demonstrated that the patients who saw the greatest benefit were the ones who had not mounted their own effective immune response.

The median time for symptom relief in patients was 13 days for the placebo group, eight days for the high-dose group and six days for the low-dose group.

Will the president get better?

While data on the drug is limited, White House adviser Anthony Fauci is among those who have said it has shown promise. 

Read more: Coronavirus vaccination: What are we actually waiting for?

Regeneron said earlier this week that the treatment reduced viral symptoms among patients. However, as a 74-year-old man with obesity, and other health factors, Trump is among the high-risk category. 

Apart from REGN-COV-2, Trump is also taking zinc, vitamin D, melatonin, aspirin and a heartburn drug.

The President's doctor, Scott Gottlieb, has also said that they are considering giving him the drug Remdesivir. Made by Gilead Sciences, this drug is also being used under emergency authorization for treating the virus.

The White House has stated that both the president and the first lady are showing mild symptoms. However, the virus may start showing worse effects during the second week, which is when patients usually deteriorate. 

About Regeneron

The US government in June awarded Regeneron a $450 million (€383 million) supply contract for up to 300,000 doses for the antibody treatment.

Last year, a triple antibody treatment plan developed by Regeneron was shown to be effective against the Ebola virus.

tg/aw (AP, Reuters, AFP)