Remdesivir and COVID-19: Trump treated with experimental drug tested at University Hospitals

Coronavirus

CLEVELAND (WJW) — As part of his treatment against the coronavirus, President Donald Trump is receiving an experimental antiviral treatment, finishing his second dose Saturday evening.

“He’s tolerated that infusion well, we’ve been monitoring him for any potential side effects and he has none that we can tell,” said Dr. Robert Garibaldi, one of the physicians treating the President.

University Hospitals was among the first to test Remdesivir, the only anti-viral drug currently approved for coronavirus. 

“It’s like an antibiotic that attacks the virus. It interferes with the virus’s ability to replicate and so it basically kills the virus,” said Dr. Keith Armitage, Medical Director University Hospitals Roe Green Medical Center for Travel & Global Health.

The drug was approved by the FDA in May for emergency use authorization.

“The benefit of Remdesivir is definitely positive but it’s modest. It shortens the illness in some patients and gets some patients out of the hospital faster, but some patients progress despite Remdesevir,” Armitage continued.

Typically, Armitage says, it’s used in more severe cases. 

“Once someone needs oxygen, we start thinking about drugs like Remdesivir, we start thinking about drugs like Dexamethasone,” he said.

The latter is also being used on the President according to an announcement from his doctors on Sunday. Armitage says the steroid is often used in conjunction with Remdesivir to cut down on lung inflammation and inflammation in the body.

Doctors reported normal function in Trump’s kidney and liver and Armitage says patients who are having problems with those organs would not be eligible for Remdesivir.

He says he cannot recall any patient they’ve treated with the antiviral drug having side effects, saying it’s very safe. 

“Remdesivir is very widespread and it’s used routinely in small hospitals, big hospitals, big academic medical centers,” Armitage explained.

The President is also receiving an antibody treatment that Armitage says is promising but is not yet approved and special permission from the FDA is needed to use it. Despite the multiple forms of treatment, Armitage does not believe the President is in the severe category of patients based on current information.

“I think the President is getting the most aggressive treatment we have but I think that was based upon these early transient drops in his oxygen that hasn’t been sustained.”

Armitage says the availability of some of these medical tools is promising in the fight against COVID. 

“When you combine advances in supportive care, Remdesivir, and Dexamethasone now compared to say March and April, you know, patients are doing better. It’s still a serious disease, some patients can still pass away but I think we are doing better with those two treatments.”

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