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What Medications Is President Trump Taking for COVID-19?

President Trump giving double thumbs up on balcony

 

Win McNamee / Staff / Getty Images 

Key Takeaways

  • President Trump has reportedly received Regeneron monoclonal antibodies, remdesivir, dexamethasone, zinc, vitamin D, famotidine, melatonin, and aspirin throughout his COVID-19 treatment.
  • Some of these medications are experimental and not available to the general public.
  • Experts do not think each of these treatments are necessarily for COVID-19.

After testing positive for COVID-19, President Donald Trump received a variety of medications, some known to be effective and at least one still in clinical trials. 

According to a memo from the Physician to the President, Sean Conley, DO, President Trump was first diagnosed with COVID-19 on the evening of Thursday, October 1. Before heading to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, on October 2 for a three-day stay, the President was given a dose of an experimental antiviral drug to treat COVID-19, some over-the-counter drugs and supplements, and supplemental oxygen. 

While he was at the military hospital, doctors started the President on two drugs, remdesivir and dexamethasone. Each has been used to treat COVID-19, though they’re generally reserved for severe cases. 

Here's what we know about each of the President's reported medications.

Regeneron Monoclonal Antibodies

Regeneron, a biotechnology company, provided the White House an 8-gram dose of REGN-COV2, a "cocktail" of two monoclonal antibodies. Monoclonal antibodies are cloned from a parent cell and mimic antibodies in humans that fight infection. In this case, scientists cloned antibodies from mice genetically modified to have a human immune system and from patients who recovered from COVID-19.

"The Regeneron cocktail contains two specific antibodies which prevent the virus from binding to receptors on cells," Bruce E. Hirsch, MD, an assistant professor of infectious diseases at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell in Hempstead, New York, tells Verywell. "It provides more focused therapy than the range of antibodies in convalescent plasma, which has been donated from people who recovered from COVID-19.” 

According to Regeneron, the drug is an investigational COVID-19 therapy, which was provided in response to a “compassionate use” request from the President’s doctors. It is still in clinical trials and has not yet been reviewed or approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In late September, Regeneron announced early data from a trial with 275 non-hospitalized patients showing the treatment was safe, and seemed to reduce viral levels and improve symptoms. The data has not been reviewed by scientists outside the company so far.

Chuck Dinerstein, MD, the medical director of the American Council on Science and Health, tells Verywell that studies so far indicate that the antibody cocktail appears, at least for outpatients, to reduce the length and severity of their illness. “Given a lack of therapeutic options, that is good," he says.

Remdesivir

President Trump was given a five-day course of remdesivir, a drug which has not been approved for use by the FDA but was given an emergency use authorization for treating hospitalized patients last May.  

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, infects people by invading cells and making copies of itself, increasing the amount of virus in a person, called viral load. Remdesivir works by making it harder for the virus to replicate. This helps the body’s immune system fight the virus.

“While we don’t know that much about the President’s health status other than two oxygen level readings that were low, that qualifies him for remdesivir, Hirsch says. "[Remdesivir] is given to people with COVID-19 whose oxygen saturation levels are below 94%."

Dexamethasone

Dexamethasone is a steroid that works by suppressing the immune system to relieve inflammation. It is FDA-approved to treat a range of inflammatory and immune conditions.

Low-dose dexamethasone is being used in a clinical trial to treat people suffering from severe COVID-19 complications, particularly patients on ventilators. In July, researchers involved in the trial published results in the New England Journal of Medicine indicating that over the course of 28 days, dexamethasone lowered the COVID-19 mortality rate in patients who were on ventilators or receiving oxygen, but not among patients who were not receiving breathing support.

“Assuming the president’s chest CT [scan] indicated findings that most COVID-19 patients have with low oxygen levels, that probably qualifies him for dexamethasone, so I don’t think doctors jumped the gun, though it’s hard to tell,” Hirsch says. 

Doctors say President Trump should be monitored closely while on dexamethasone because it can cause changes in mood. Side effects of dexamethasone can include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Restlessness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Zinc

Zinc helps bolster the immune system, though there is no definitive evidence regarding its effect on COVID-19. In late September, researchers at the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Disease (ESCMID) Conference on Coronavirus Disease presented data that showed hospitalized COVID-19 patients with low zinc levels had worse outcomes than those with higher zinc levels.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D can help prevent respiratory infections. According to researchers at both the National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization, there isn’t enough data yet to recommend use of vitamin D to prevent or treat COVID-19, though several recent studies have examined the relationship. A study of 489 people by researchers at the University of Chicago found that those who had a vitamin D deficiency were more likely to test positive SARS-CoV-2 than people who had normal levels of vitamin D. 

Famotidine (Pepcid) 

Famotidine is a heartburn drug being studied as a treatment for COVID-19. In September, researchers at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut published a study regarding the effects of famotidine on hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Of the 900 patients involved in the study, 83 were given famotidine in the hospital. Researchers noticed that those who received the drug were 45% less likely to die in the hospital and 48% less likely to be placed on a ventilator.

Researchers think famotidine may reduce a patient’s inflammatory response to SARS-CoV-2. An overactive immune response, called a cytokine storm, can cause an abundance of inflammatory signals in the body, sometimes leading to organ failure, and even death.

Melatonin

President Trump’s doctors did not explain why they administered each medication they listed, and there's only limited research linking melatonin to COVID-19 as an adjuvant treatment. However, Hirsch thinks it’s possible that the President simply received melatonin as a sleep aid, since hospitals can be noisy, stressful places.

Aspirin

Hirsch thinks the President may be on a daily aspirin regimen to prevent clots in general and that this medication is not related to COVID-19 treatment. If President Trump were experiencing a blood clot as a result of COVID-19, Hirsch thinks he would be receiving stronger anti-clotting medication.

While aspirin is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), other NSAIDs, like ibuprofen, are more likely to be used to reduce fever, another symptom of COVID-19.

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