Doctor: COVID-19 drug taken by Trump needs more testing

FAN Editor

A leading researcher focused on fighting the coronavirus says the drug President Trump claims has cured him of COVID-19 may be safe, but hasn’t been proven yet as a cure for the virus that has killed over 200,000 Americans. Dr. David Ho, whose previous work led to the cocktail of drugs that allow HIV/AIDS patients to survive, tells Scott Pelley the antibody therapy developed by Regeneron given to the president still needs more clinical trials on thousands of patients before it’s deemed effective for the masses. Pelley’s 60 Minutes report will be broadcast tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET and 7 p.m. PT on CBS.

Ho’s team of researchers is working on a monoclonal antibody treatment for covid similar to the Regeneron drug taken by President Trump. Such drugs are derived from the antibodies created by the immune systems of patients who successfully battled a disease. He says the drug taken by the president is among two that have potential effectiveness. “There are two front-runners who have developed antibody. One is Lilly, Eli Lilly and Company. And the other is Regeneron,” says Ho. “And the president received the Regeneron product. These are very powerful antibodies. And both Lilly and Regeneron have reported promising preliminary results. But I must emphasize, preliminary.”   

More time is needed before the drug President Trump received can be declared ready for all says Ho. “Well, these are ongoing studies. They, I think, are going to enroll thousands of these patients. They have only entered the clinic in June, July. So we need to give it more time.” But, says Ho, there is no indication they are dangerous. “These two that have been administered now to a number of people, they don’t seem to have any side effects. And in general, monoclonal antibody therapies for cancer, inflammation and other diseases have been quite safe,” he tells Pelley.  

Asked whether he agrees with the president that people should not fear COVID-19, Ho replies, “Well, I think we should be fearful of what this virus could do. Over a million people have died. And over 200,000 Americans have died. We have to give this virus it’s due respect.”  

Ho says despite the light at the end of the tunnel, the virus still has a dangerous grip on the world. “You could say it’s now worse than ever with about 100,000 new cases per day worldwide. So, we don’t have it under control.”   

Pelley also speaks to Dr. Christina Brennan, who oversees Northwell Health’s Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research clinical trials which include another drug given to President Trump. An antiviral that was not effective for the hepatitis C it was developed to fight, but may have more promise against COVID. “So far, [Remdesivir] really has shown that it…[is] decreasing the hospital length of stay, but we haven’t seen other effects that would say that it would cure COVID-19,”  Brennan tells Pelley. 

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