What We Know About Donald Trump’s COVID-19 Treatment Plan
What We Know About Donald Trump’s COVID-19 Treatment Plan

What We Know About Donald Trump’s COVID-19 Treatment Plan

The President was hospitalized on Friday evening and has been receiving an aggressive treatment of experimental and standard drugs.

Lisa Winter
Lisa Winter
Oct 5, 2020

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On Thursday, October 1, it was announced that President Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, and other White House officials had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. His symptoms worsened and on Friday evening, he was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. 

There has been some mixed messaging with the actual timeline of when he received his diagnosis and began a treatment regimen, as The New York Times reports, and doctors can only speculate on his prognosis.

Here is what is currently known about the drugs Trump has been taking to combat his illness:

Antibodies 

One of the first reported treatments Trump received was an experimental cocktail of two monoclonal antibodies from Regeneron. Trump was intravenously given eight grams of the cocktail, which is the highest dose used during the drug’s small, 245-person clinical trial. According to a September press release from Regeneron, the drug is meant to treat non-hospitalized patients and boost the patient’s immune response, decreasing viral load. 

Remdesivir 

On Friday, Trump also received his first dose of remdesivir, a drug originally developed to treat Ebola infections. Prior to the pandemic, it was shown in vitro to be effective against the coronaviruses that cause SARS and MERS, suggesting it could be effective against SARS-CoV-2. Further testing of the drug in COVID-19 patients, given over the course of five days, showed that it was effective in treating severe disease in patients with pneumonia receiving supplemental oxygen. In late August, the drug received emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Association for patients with severe cases.

Dexamethasone 

On Saturday, Trump received dexamethasone, a corticosteroid that mitigates inflammation in the lungs and tempers the patient’s immune system. The drug has a long history of use for a wide variety of ailments, including autoimmune diseases, cancer, and certain endocrine disorders, and has been on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medications since 1977. Over the summer, a study showed that the drug is also useful in treating severe COVID-19, reducing the mortality rate by 20 percent.

“I think we were all astonished to see how effective it was,” the University of Oxford’s Richard Haynes, who is one of the leaders of the trial, wrote in an email to The Scientist in June. “We tested it because we believed it could be effective, but I don’t think anyone was expecting to see quite such large effects.”

As reported by the Times, the President was receiving supplemental oxygen when his levels dipped below 95 percent. 

An October 2 memo from Trump’s physician reveals that in addition to these interventions, he has also been taking daily aspirin, melatonin (a supplement to aid in sleep), zinc, and famotidine, an antacid sold under the tradename Pepcid. 

The memo also noted that Trump has been given vitamin D supplements. In August, a study found a connection to low vitamin D levels and susceptibility to COVID-19. It is not clear if these supplements are part of routine health maintenance or his coronavirus infection care.

Notably absent from the President’s treatment plan is hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial that Trump has touted as a promising treatment throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, even after it was shown to be largely ineffective and potentially harmful. In May, Trump claimed to have taken a two-week-long preventive dose of the drug. In late July, he was still tweeting about the drug, long after its emergency use authorization had been rescinded. The tweet has since been deleted.

Correction (October 6): A previous version of the story incorrectly identified the date President Trump’s diagnosis was announced. The Scientist regrets the error.