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The Health 202: Trump is taking Regeneron’s new coronavirus treatment. It’s used for mild symptoms.

But Trump is also taking a vaccine-like drug made by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, a promising covid-19 treatment.

Researchers are using Regeneron’s experimental antibody drug in a very different way: They’re giving it to patients with only mild symptoms. 

Many experts view the drug as the best bet to stymie the coronavirus and transform it from a potentially lethal disease into a treatable illness. 

“This drug, called a monoclonal antibody cocktail, aims to keep people out of the hospital altogether,” my colleague Carolyn Y. Johnson wrote recently. “The experimental shot of lab-generated antibodies imitates the body’s own disease-fighting force. The goal is to boost a person’s immune defense, instead of waiting for human biology to muster its own response — and possibly lose to the virus.” 

The antibodies are grown in rodents that are genetically engineered to have humanized immune systems, Carolyn explains. 

Last week, Regeneron announced its drug appeared effective against the virus, reliving symptoms when given to people recently diagnosed with covid-19. And last month Eli Lilly announced interim data that its monoclonal antibody seemed to reduce hospitalizations when given to people, although the data haven’t yet been peer reviewed.

Trump may be returning home today from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after a three-night stay.

Conflicting and incomplete reports from the White House and Trump’s doctors provoked a flurry of questions about exactly how sick the president was. 

Trump’s doctors said he had a “high fever” on Friday and his blood oxygen levels dropped that day and again on Saturday. Yet he briefly left the hospital to wave to supporters and appeared in two videos insisting he was feeling better. 

“We’re getting great reports from the doctors,” Trump said in the video before promising a “little surprise” to his supporters. “It’s been a very interesting journey. I learned a lot about covid.” 

The attending physician at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center noted the risk to Trump’s Secret Service agents:

The White House also still won’t say whether President Trump is on Day 5 or further along in the course of his coronavirus infection, prompting widespread confusion over when the president first contracted the virus. 

The president was given Regeneron’s drug before heading to the hospital on Friday.

That’s great timing, if Friday was only the second day of Trump’s infection.

“He’s got therapy so early, I think he’s out of the woods,” said Carlos Del Rio, professor of medicine and global health at Emory University. 

But it’s not entirely clear Trump was infected with the virus on Thursday. While the president tested positive for the virus twice that day, administration officials haven’t answered questions about whether he was tested for the virus in the days before, and the results of those tests.

Some medical professionals have pointed out it’s unusual to develop serious symptoms so quickly after contracting the virus. Trump was given supplemental oxygen on Friday, his doctors said.

Leana Wen, former health commissioner of Baltimore:

Bloomberg News’s Steven Dennis:

It’s possible, some have suggested, that