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Former FDA chief says this is the best coronavirus medicine Trump can get right now

Published Oct 2nd, 2020 3:08PM EDT
Coronavirus Trump
Image: Al Drago - Pool via CNP/MEGA

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  • Reports say that President Trump has been experiencing mild cold-like symptoms following his positive coronavirus diagnosis.
  • Former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb thinks that the best treatment Trump can get, should he need any medication, is remdesivir.
  • There’s no official word from the White House on a treatment protocol for the president or First Lady Melania Trump, who also tested positive.

President Trump confirmed on Fox News that his aide Hope Hicks tested positive for the novel coronavirus just hours before saying that his own COVID-19 test came back positive as well. First Lady Melania Trump also tested positive, and the two will be quarantined at home in the White House as they recover, according to an official letter from the White House physician. Dr. Sean Conley said that the Trumps were both well when he released the statement and that the president will continue to work from home as he recovers. “The White House medical team and I will maintain a vigilant watch, and I appreciate the support provided by some of our country’s greatest medical professionals and institutions,” the doctor said. Conley did not mention any symptoms at the time of the statement, but other health experts noted that Trump’s age and weight are risk factors for the COVID-19 prognosis. Conley did not specify any course of treatment for the Trumps.

Since then, sources said that Trump is in fact experiencing mild symptoms similar to a cold. Trump’s positive diagnosis and the onset of symptoms indicate the president contracted the illness several days ago. The novel coronavirus needs at least a few days to show up in tests, and the incubation period can last anywhere from 2 to 14 days. Former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb now says the best coronavirus treatment Trump can get, should he need medication, is the antiviral drug remdesivir that’s usually used in a hospital setting.

A source told The New York Times that Trump had coldlike symptoms. Trump attended a fund-raiser at his golf club in Bedminister, NJ on Thursday, where one attendee said the president seemed lethargic and that he came in contact with about 100 people. A different source said the president fell asleep on Air Force One on the way back from a rally in Minnesota on Wednesday night. Separately, The Associated Press reported that Trump is experiencing “mild symptoms,” according to an unnamed White House official. Hicks began feeling mild symptoms herself during the plane ride home from the same Minnesota rally. She was isolated from other passengers aboard the plane.

The pandemic has taught us that a person is most contagious a few days before the onset of symptoms, and then for several days after symptoms begin to present. Hicks may have infected others before she was isolated. The same goes for the Trumps. Next week will be critical in determining the course of Trump’s illness, experts told The Times.

President Trump has been a long supporter of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19, and he took the drug a few months ago when two White House staffers tested positive. Studies have shown that the anti-malarial drug isn’t effective at preventing or curing COVID-19. Gottlieb told CNBC that White House doctors are probably considering remdesivir to treat the Trumps, if the need arises. The drug has been effective in reducing recovery time, although it’s not the perfect cure for COVID-19 and it can’t save everyone who gets the virus.

“Remdesivir is indicated for hospitalized patients. But there is thinking that it probably improves outcomes earlier it is introduced in the course of the disease,” the former FDA chief said.

The drug is usually administered intravenously in hospitals. Trump will probably get access to special treatment at home, and that’s not surprising considering his position. The White House has employed strict coronavirus screening as well as other safety measures, hopes of preventing infected people from reaching Trump. A few months ago, we explained that Trump could afford not to wear face masks because everyone around him is tested regularly.

Gottlieb said that the Trumps “have a good chance of doing well.” He added that Trump “was previously in good health by all reports and will get excellent care,” but acknowledged that age and weight are risk factors. The president is in a high-risk group simply by virtue of his age, 74. He’s also reported to be overweight,” Gottlieb said.

The former FDA chief also noted that Trump’s diagnosis underscores the dangers of COVID-19. The “bottom line message” is that everyone is vulnerable, he said. Gottlieb noted that Trump’s condition following the positive diagnosis would influence the opinions of some Americans on COVID-19. If he gets sick, deniers might finally get the message regarding the severity of the illness. If he doesn’t snow any symptoms, it could “cut the other way,” and people might continue to downplay the virus.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.