Doctors are reporting a spike in enquiries by patients for an experimental Covid-19 drug cocktail after Donald Trump called the Regeneron Pharmaceuticals drug “a blessing from God” that is a “cure” for the virus.
Two doctors involved in the trial of the drug told Reuters that more patients are asking to participate in the drug’s trials, though medical experts have pointed out the drug, REGN-COV2, is still too early in its trial period to confirm that it can help treat Covid-19.
On Wednesday, just hours after Trump praised the drug as the “cure” for the virus, Regeneron announced that it submitted an application to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) for an emergency use authorization of the drug, which is a cocktail mix of two antibodies meant to aid the immune system in fighting the virus.
Regeneron’s stock, and the stock of Eli Lilly, another pharmaceutical company conducting drug trials for an anti-body treatment, soared Thursday after Trump touted the treatment.
“The politics of the situation would suggest to me that the story could be Trump gets Covid … then American technology fostered by the Trump administration cures Covid,” said Dr Dirk Sostman, head of research network at Houston Methodist Hospital, a trial site for Regeneron’s antibody program, who told Reuters that more patients were seeking to take part in the trial. “I would think there would be pressure on regulators [to approve the drug],” he said.
Though Trump said that “hundreds of thousands” of doses were ready for use, Regeneron said that it actually has enough doses for 50,000 patients and would have enough for 300,000 patients in the coming months. The company has said 275 patients participated in the first phase of the drug trial.
The US has more than 7.5m confirmed cases of Covid-19 and over 212,000 people have died of the disease, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Because the drug is in clinical trials, it is only available to patients who are accepted into the trial. With approval from the FDA, drug companies can offer a treatment to patients not participating in trials under “compassionate use” rules, which are meant to make treatments accessible to patients with a life-threatening condition that has no alternative therapies available. Regeneron said that under 10 people have been given its drug under the rules.
Doctors on Twitter have been voicing their concerns about promises of a cure when the treatment is still nascent.
“We don’t know if it works. We don’t know about patient outcomes because it hasn’t been studied enough. Frankly, [Trump] is an anecdote,” said Dr Rob Davidson, an emergency room physician in Michigan and executive director of the Committee to Protect Medicine, in a video on Twitter.
Regeneron’s drug is just the latest treatment that Trump is touting as the cure to the virus without the evidence medical experts say is necessary to actual confirm a treatment is safe and effective. In the spring, Trump infamously announced he was taking anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine in an attempt to prevent Covid-19, though the FDA warned against using the drug for that reason. Just a month later, the FDA revoked its emergency authorization for the drug citing growing evidence that it did not work to prevent the virus and that it had serious side effects.