Oct 9, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Science gets political as Trump touts experimental coronavirus drugs

President Trump gestures upon return to the White House from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Trump has called an experimental coronavirus therapy he received "a gift from Heaven" and promised to make it widely available — igniting yet another round of concern about politics encroaching on science.

What they're saying: "We have an emergency use authorization that I want to get signed immediately," Trump said in a video Thursday.

The big picture: "The problem is every therapy for coronavirus has become politicized — every single therapy, and that's the last thing you want in a pandemic, so this is just next in line," Walid Gellad, director of the Center for Pharmaceutical Policy and Prescribing at the University of Pittsburgh, told the Washington Post.

Trump is talking about a cocktail of laboratory-made antibodies made by Regeneron that he received as part of a host of medications over the past week.

  • Regeneron and Eli Lilly, which is developing a similar therapy, both applied for an emergency use authorization from the FDA this week.
  • Regeneron has said that it would have about 300,000 doses of the drug available in the next few months, and Eli Lilly will have about 1 million doses ready by the end of the year, per the Post.
  • That means that even if the drugs are quickly authorized, the number of patients who can receive them will be limited.

Between the lines: The drugs, while promising, are still undergoing clinical trials, and it's unclear whether the Regeneron therapy was responsible for Trump's apparent recovery.

What to watch: "The science of antibody drugs could ... devolve into another political dispute."

  • "But the FDA should and will weigh the benefits of the therapy against the risks and judge the application on the scientific merits, hopefully without political interference," former FDA commissioners Scott Gottlieb and Mark McClellan wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed yesterday.
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