President Donald Trump’s doctors added a steroid called dexamethasone to his treatment, a drug that’s typically used in more severe Covid-19 patients.
Dexamethasone can control the inflammatory and immune effects of the virus. Considered a potential breakthrough for patients whose Covid-19 cases have gotten significantly worse, it was found in onestudy to help significantly reduce the likelihood of death in those who need oxygen support or are on a ventilator.
Covid-19 is a two-phase infection, and often the most life-threatening symptoms come not from the virus itself, but when the immune system spirals out of control. The infection can persist for a week to 10 days before worsening.
“The president has continued to improve,” White House physician Sean Conley, who is Trump’s lead doctor, told reporters at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Sunday. “As with any illness, there are frequent ups and downs over the course.”
The president’s medical team is preparing to discharge him as soon as Monday. It wasn’t clear why they were giving him a drug typically used in deteriorating or severe patients if that was the case.
Dexamethasone also carries some risks. In patients like Trump, who according to his doctors is not getting regular oxygen support, the steroid was associated with a potentially higher rate of death, according to the study of the drug published in theNew England Journal of Medicine. “We found no benefit (and the possibility of harm) among patients who did not require oxygen,” the authors of the study wrote.
“We debated if we’d even start it, the dexamethasone,” Conley said Sunday. “And we decided that, in this case, the potential benefits early on in the course probably outweighed any risks at this time.”
With use for more than two weeks, the drug carries some risk of side effects such as high blood-pressure or mental confusion, according to the World Health Organization. But those risks aren’t associated with short-term use, according to the WHO.
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