President Donald Trump wants to make sure that a COVID-19 treatment is available ASAP. If there’s something available before the elections, he wants them available. On separate occasions last week, the President signaled that the fight against COVID-19 is winnable. And more important, that the answers might come sooner than later.
Trump: “Focus on speed and saving lives!”
On Saturday, Trump fired shots at the Food and Drug Administration over the slow pace of approvals. He tweeted: “The deep state, or whoever, over at the FDA is making it very difficult for drug companies to get people in order to test the vaccines and therapeutics.” Obviously, they are hoping to delay the answer until after November 3rd. Must focus on speed, and saving lives!”
In response, the FDA gave an emergency use authorization (EUA) for a COVID-19 treatment the next day. This involved the use of plasma taken from patients who recovered from COVID-19. While promising, the FDA still maintains that the treatment only benefits some patients. The agency advised that the public should not look at plasma “as a new standard of care for the treatment.” The EUA will broaden the use of a treatment already used in more than 70,000 patients. Unlike drugs, plasma is not manufactured but depends on blood donations. This may present difficulty in getting the needed amount to help.
President begged to differ from the FDA. He said that the approval marked “a breakthrough” in the treatment of the coronavirus. Trump noted the approval came “by marshaling the full power of the federal government.” The treatment, he said, is welcome news in the fight against coronavirus.
By August, COVID-19 has infected more than 5 million Americans and has caused the deaths of 176,000 more. At present, the United States holds about 25% of all coronavirus cases in the world.
“A Major Advance in Treatment”
US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said studies justified the EUA. During a White House briefing, Azar discussed a previous study with 70,000 volunteers. He said that “The data we gathered suggests that patients who were treated early in their disease course, within three days of being diagnosed, with plasma containing high levels of antibodies, benefited the most from treatment. We saw about a 35% better survival in the patients who benefited most from the treatment.” He added: “We dream in drug development of something like a 35% mortality reduction. This is a major advance in the treatment of patients. A major advance.”
Potential Fast Track for the Covid-19 Vaccine
Meanwhile, the President is also looking at fast-tracking a potential coronavirus vaccine. The Financial Times reported that the White House is looking at a EUA for a British vaccine. The vaccine under consideration is co-developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. It is now undergoing large scale Phase II/III trials, including 30,000 Americans. Using a regular timetable, AstraZeneca expects results until the end of the year. If the EUA happens, this can make a vaccine ready for Americans before the November elections.
The market was quick to pick up on the information. Stock prices of AstraZeneca (AZN), rose more than 2% on Monday. A company spokesperson denied there are ongoing talks with the federal government. He said, “it would be premature to speculate.”
Even without the EUA, the US will be among the first countries to receive an approved vaccine. The federal government gave over $1 billion to help fund AstraZeneca’s efforts. In return, the US will receive 300 doses of the vaccine as soon as it becomes available.
Not Just A Vaccine, But Maybe a Cure
Vaccines may be in the spotlight, but other Covid-19 treatments are under consideration. With millions infected at present, developing a cure can help turn the tide against Covid-19.
AstraZeneca also started testing its new antibody-based drug to prevent and treat Covid-19. This is a separate effort from its vaccine development program as mentioned above. If the tests show that the drug AZD7442 is safe, they will proceed to a larger trial phase. The company will test if it works both as a medicine to cure Covid-19 and as a preventative treatment.
Watch this as the U.S. FDA authorizes blood plasma for COVID-19 treatment:
Are you in favor of the fast track efforts of the President, notwithstanding whatever reasons are behind it? Let us know what you think by sharing your thoughts on the comment section below.