President Trump on Wednesday released a direct-to-camera video address to the nation in which he called getting the coronavirus “a blessing from God,” calling the unapproved drug a “cure” and saying he would provide hundreds of thousands of doses of unapproved drugs to Americans free of charge.
“I think this was a blessing from God that I caught it,” Mr. Trump said in the nearly five-minute video, released after nearly two days out of public view and just over three hours before Vice President Mike Pence was scheduled to debate the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, Senator Kamala Harris of California.
In a video that was supposed to have been released a day earlier, Mr. Trump explained that he considered getting ill with a virus that has killed more than one million people, including more than 211,000 Americans, to be such a “blessing” because he ended up taking an experimental antibody cocktail, still in clinical trials, that is produced by Regeneron.
“To me it wasn’t therapeutic — it just made me better, OK? I call that a cure,” said Mr. Trump, whose skin appeared darkened by makeup and who appeared to struggle to get air at times. He then said everyone should have access to the not-yet-approved drug for “free” and that he would make sure it was in every hospital as soon as possible. He claimed to have personally chosen the drug as part of his treatment.
“I feel great — I feel, like, perfect,” Mr. Trump declared.
It was the first time that Mr. Trump has acknowledged receiving care that isn’t available to any member of the general public after he said early Friday morning that he had tested positive for the virus.
Mr. Trump did not provide any details on how he would speed the distribution of the drug, other than referring to the military and saying they could help. Regeneron has received more than $500 million from the federal government to develop and manufacture its experimental treatment as part of “Operation Warp Speed,” the federal effort to come up with viable vaccines and treatments for the virus, in order to help distribute it once it is available.
“These are great professionals, they’ve done a fantastic job,” he said of the medical professionals who cared for him. That includes Dr. Sean Conley, the White House physician, who said at a press briefing two days ago that it wouldn’t be clear that Mr. Trump is “out of the woods” for another week, given the typical course of the illness.
He began the video by saying, “Perhaps you recognize me, it’s your favorite president.” He ended the video by saying, “Good luck.”
The video was released a day after aides scrapped a possible live nationwide address by Mr. Trump to show him firmly in command after he had returned to the White House from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he received treatment for Covid-19.
The president has been desperate to announce some kind of definitive treatment, or a vaccine, ahead of the Nov. 3 election, in which nearly all polls show him trailing Mr. Biden nationally. and in key states.
The Regeneron antibody cocktail is not the only drug that Mr. Trump was prescribed. He has also been taking the antiviral drug remdesivir, as well as the dexamethasone, a steroid that the World Health Organization and National Institutes of Health only recommend for people suffering from severe or critical cases of Covid-19.
Doctors have declined to say what other medications Mr. Trump is taking as he fights off the virus.
It is impossible to know if the treatment has cured the president or even if he has beaten the disease. Most people with Covid-19 eventually recover, and medical experts have also said that Mr. Trump is most likely still battling it. Dexamethasone, which Mr. Trump first received on Saturday, is known to create a sense of well-being and euphoria in many people who take it, as well as bursts of energy.
Outside medical experts have said the next week will be pivotal because many patients who do poorly take a turn for the worse in the second week after symptoms arise.
With the federal assistance, Regeneron has said it can produce up to 300,000 doses of the treatment, which is expected to be provided to Americans free of charge. It is one of several similar antibody therapies — another is being developed by Eli Lilly — that seek to give people powerful antibodies in the hopes of boosting their immune response.
But although both companies have reported promising early results, clinical trials are still underway and have not been completed. Although Mr. Trump credited the Regeneron treatment with having improved his illness, there is no way to know if a drug is safe and if it works without testing it in large groups of people, some who receive the drug, and some who get a placebo.
Regeneron and Eli Lilly have said the therapies could be available before the end of the year. Some medical experts have seen the therapies as a sort of bridge until vaccines are available — the infusion of antibodies could be given to people who have been exposed to the virus in order to prevent infection, as well as to people who are still early in the course of the disease.
In his video, Mr. Trump suggested that the treatments could soon be authorized for emergency use, a potentially risky move because it could allow the treatments to become widely used before they have been proven to work. Broader access to the drugs could then jeopardize enrollment in clinical trials, because people may be reluctant to participate if there is a chance they could receive a placebo.
Similar concerns were raised after the Food and Drug Administration created a broad access program for a similar therapy, known as convalescent plasma. Enrollment in trials of plasma sputtered in part because doctors and hospitals could gain access to the treatment through the F.D.A. program. As a result, it is still unclear if convalescent plasma is effective in treatment of Covid-19, even though the F.D.A. approved it for emergency use over the summer after Mr. Trump pressured the agency to do so.
Monoclonal antibodies like the ones that Regeneron is developing are difficult and expensive to manufacture, and some have raised questions about whether the companies will be able to make enough to meet global demand if they are proven to work. In August, the company announced it was teaming up with a larger company, Roche, to ramp up production.
New York Times