President Donald Trump, who tested positive for COVID-19 on October 1, is now taking a steroid previously used in a clinical trial for hospitalized patients with the virus in the United Kingdom.
White House physician Sean Conley on October 4 updated reporters at the Walter Reed medical Center, where Trump is seeking medical care, on the president’s current condition. Following several conflicting and concerning reports from aides and doctor’s over the weekend, Conley offered a more optimistic approach on the 74-year-old’s progress — including a new prescription for Dexamethasone.
“Since we last spoke, the president has continued to improve,” Conley said.
Trump was taken to the Maryland military hospital on Friday after experiencing a high fever and receiving supplemental oxygen, the doctor explained. The president’s oxygen levels fell again on Saturday morning, requiring oxygen and a lung scan.
Conley said the scans showed some indications of damage, but assured it was nothing of a “major clinical concern.”
You can watch the full briefing here.
Trump may be discharged as early as tomorrow, another medical expert added during the briefing.
Here’s what you need to know about Dexamethasone and its relation to COVID-19:
1. Dexamethasone is Used to Treat Conditions Such As Arthritis, Hormone & Immune System Disorders & Allergic Reactions
According to MayoClinic, Dexamethasone is prescribed to relieve inflamed areas of the body, including symptoms stemming from severe allergies, arthritis, asthma, adrenal problems, kidney problems, immune system disorders and skin conditions, among others.
“It works on the immune system to help relieve swelling, redness, itching, and allergic reactions,” the Clinic states.
The drug works by lowering the body’s natural defense response, WebMD added.
It is only available via a doctor’s prescription and comes in tablets, elixirs and solutions, the medical website continued.
2. It Was Tested in Hospitalized Patients With COVID-19 in the United Kingdom
The drug was used to treat hospitalized patients with the coronavirus in the United Kingdom during a national clinical trial called, RECOVERY, according to the World Health Organization.
The organization said the trial found the drug to be beneficial for critically ill patients, writing:
“According to preliminary findings shared with WHO (and now available as a preprint), for patients on ventilators, the treatment was shown to reduce mortality by about one third, and for patients requiring only oxygen, mortality was cut by about one fifth.”
3. Dexamethasone is ‘Generally Safe’ With Minimal Side Effects, WHO Says
The World Health Organization states on its website that Dexamethasone is fairly low-risk, presenting a “favourable benefit-risk profile, particularly in patients with severe forms of pneumonia.” Patients with non-severe pneumonia see lower benefits, on the other hand, it continued.
Non-threatening side effects include upset stomach, headache, dizziness, menstrual changes, trouble sleeping, increased appetite, or weight gain, WebMD states. If side effects persist or worse, a doctor should be notified “promptly.”
Long-term use, such as more than two weeks, could potentially cause more “adverse” reactions, WHO added, including glaucoma, cataract, fluid retention, hypertension, psychological effects, weight gain, or increased risk of infections and osteoporosis.
“To reiterate: All these adverse events are not associated with short term use (with the exception of hyperglycaemia that can worsen diabetes),” the organization says on its website.
4. Trump’s Dexamethasone Use May Indicate That he has a Severe Case of COVID-19, One Doctor Warns
Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health Ashish Jha said earlier this weekend that the drug could be a “very clear signal that he has a more severe disease,” according to The Los Angeles Times.
The Dean emphasized similar sentiments on October 4, expressing that Trump’s long-term lung damage is still up in the air, the newspaper reported.
Trump was also half-way through his five-day course of the anti-viral drug Remdesivir, the Los Angeles Times reported.
5. Dexamethasone is Available in Most Countries
Dexamethasone is “generally available in most countries” through several product manufacturers, WHO says.
“One manufacturer has already been prequalified by WHO (Kern Pharma in Spain) while another is under assessment,” the organization states on its website.
WHO claims the medication is also “generally affordable, with a median price of $0.33 per 4mg/ml injection ampoules (range: US$0.13-$3.5),” citing 2016 and 2019 surveys of health facilities in low- and middle-income countries.