(Reuters) – President Donald Trump has been treated with an experimental antibody cocktail for COVID-19 and is moving to a military hospital as a precautionary measure, White House officials said on Friday.
The president’s physician, Dr. Sean Conley, said in a statement that Trump “remains fatigued but in good spirits” after receiving an intravenous dose of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc’s dual antibody. Trump was also taking immune system boosters zinc and vitamin D, aspirin, and other generic drugs.
Trump, 74, walked to a helicopter on Friday before being moved to a special suite at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, for the next few days.
Regeneron’s drug, REGN-COV2, is part of a class of experimental COVID-19 drugs known as monoclonal antibodies: manufactured copies of human antibodies to the virus that are being studied for use in patients with early illness.
Trump’s doctors “must be sufficiently concerned with what they are seeing that they decided to use an experimental medicine … Experimental drugs are by definition risky,” said Dr. Edward Jones-Lopez, infectious disease specialist at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
Antibodies are proteins made by the body’s immune system that latch onto and neutralize an invading virus. Regeneron’s cocktail – which contains an antibody made by the company and a second isolated from humans who recovered from COVID-19 – is designed so that its two antibodies bind to the coronavirus’ spike protein, limiting the ability of viruses to escape.
“The trouble is we don’t have good treatments for people with mild COVID-19 … I imagine that they are doing this because they hope this is relatively low risk,” said Dr. Rajesh Gandhi, an infectious disease physician at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
Data so far is limited for COVID-19 antibodies, but U.S. infectious disease chief Dr. Anthony Fauci is among those saying the technology has promise.
Regeneron this week reported trial results showing that its drug improved symptoms in non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients, with no serious side effects, and said it planned to talk with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about an emergency use authorization.
Eli Lilly & Co has also announced encouraging early data from a trial of its coronavirus antibody, and said it is seeking emergency authorization from the FDA.
Shares of Regeneron rose about 3% in after hours trade, following the announcement that Trump was given the drug.
Trump is also taking the heartburn drug famotidine – often sold in the U.S. under the brand name Pepcid. Although the drug has not been shown to work against COVID-19, researchers are studying it as a possible treatment.
Zinc and vitamin D are believed to boost the immune system. Melatonin is a hormone that helps to regulate daily body rhythms. Trump has said in the past that he takes a daily low-dose aspirin, which is recommended for some adults at increased risk of heart attack or stroke.
(Reporting by Deena Beasley and Diane Bartz; Additional reporting by Michael Erman; Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Daniel Wallis and Peter Henderson)