The Daily Telegraph
Medical experts baffled over the range of drugs given to president
THE range of drugs being taken by Donald Trump to treat his coronavirus infection has led to confusion among medical experts over his health, with some convinced the use of dexamethasone, a powerful steroid, means he is seriously unwell.
Others, however, believe he is being overmedicated after reports of the long list of medication he is receiving at the Walter Reed Army Medical Centre in Washington.
Mr Trump will take dexamethasone “for the time being”, said his physician, in addition to remdesivir – an antiviral – plus vitamin D and an antibody cocktail.
Dexamethasone is a cheap and widely available drug that has been on the World Health Organisation list of essential medicines since 1997. Manufactured in the UK by firms including Martindale Pharmaceuticals, the drug reduces the risk of death in coronavirus patients on ventilators by one third. Among those who are not on ventilators, this figure is around one fifth.
However, scientists agree dexamethasone has no benefit to patients who are not seriously ill, and the WHO cautions against its use in mild cases, while more than two weeks of usage can incur weight gain and mood swings.
“It’s not effective in patients who do not require oxygen, ventilatory support and so on,” said Martin Landray, the Oxford University professor who led a trial in June proving its effectiveness in serious cases. Another drug given to the president is remdesivir, an antiviral initially developed to treat Ebola and administered to America’s first Covid-19 patient in January. It has received emergency authorisation in the US to treat severe cases, and European Union approval for coronavirus patients aged over 12 with pneumonia.
While there were great hopes for remdesivir at the beginning of the pandemic, it has not proven to be a gamechanger. While US data found it can reduce recovery time, a British Medical Journal paper concluded remdesivir may have “little or no effect” on the duration of hospital stays.
Before his transfer to hospital, Mr Trump took an antibody cocktail – produced by US firm Regeneron – which remains an experimental therapy without regulatory approval. Known as monoclonal antibodies, the treatments are used for conditions including cancer and arthritis.
‘It’s not effective in patients who do not require oxygen, ventilatory support and so on’