Trump’s COVID-19 treatment available in Puerto Rico
By John McPhaul
Health Secretary Lorenzo González Feliciano said Wednesday that the treatment that the President Donald Trump received for COVID-19 is already available in Puerto Rico.
“Remember when President Trump was admitted to the hospital and given an experimental treatment? This experimental treatment already exists in Puerto Rico; it was given emergency approval by the FDA [U.S. Food and Drug Administration],” the secretary said in response to questions from the press.
González Feliciano said the treatment is an injection that must be given to the patient over the period of about an hour. Trump received the treatment called Regeneron, which is a cocktail of monoclonal antibodies in the experimental phase. When he left Walter Reed Military Hospital, Trump promised that he would make the treatment available free of cost.
González Feliciano also reiterated that deaths from COVID-19 in Puerto Rico will reach 1,000 before the end of November.
The Health secretary was summoned to appear at government transition public hearings.
The Health Department also announced that it will soon receive the drug Bamlanivimab, which will become an alternative for those patients with positive COVID-19 results who do not meet the criteria for hospitalization, but are at severe risk of developing the disease.
The treatment was authorized for emergency use by the FDA. It consists of a monoclonal antibody that is administered intravenously to a patient with confirmed COVID-19. To be effective, it must be administered within the first 10 days of diagnosis. It is an outpatient process and will be free of charge for the patient.
“We have a lot of hope with the Bamlanivimab,” said Deputy Health Secretary Iris Cardona. “When this antibody is administered, the patient receives a type of passive immunity that neutralizes the coronavirus and that could prevent their health from deteriorating and having to go to the hospital. This is the good news.”
In Puerto Rico, the Health Department will supervise the allocation of the drug and coordinate its distribution. Generally speaking, the percentage of the total number of confirmed COVID-19 patients and the total number of confirmed hospitalized patients, during a seven-day reporting period, will equal the percentage of Bamlanivimab available for a given week of distribution. For Puerto Rico, 640 vials of one dose each have been separated for the first week.
Cardona said the drug can be used in patients 12 years of age and older, who weigh 88 pounds or more. The patient should not be seriously ill, nor should he or she need oxygen. Neither should he or she present conditions or criteria for hospitalization.
“With Bamlanivimab we can prevent a COVID-positive patient, who is not very bad but who has certain risk criteria, from developing complications and having to be hospitalized,” Cardona said. “The important thing is to identify the risk factors of these patients in order to administer the medication before it becomes serious so that the patient does not end up in the hospital. This to a great extent will help us to decongest hospitals because the patient is treated in a preventive manner.”
According to studies, the monoclonal antibody could also benefit patients 65 years of age or older who, despite not having hospitalization criteria, meet the risk of severe disease such as obesity with a body mass index of 35, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, compromised immune system or being treated with immunosuppressants.
Another group for which the drug could be useful is that made up of people 55 to 64 years of age with cardiovascular disease, hypertension or chronic respiratory disease. In the case of adolescents, Bamlanivimab could be useful in patients with obesity, sickle cell anemia, heart disease, neurological problems -- cerebral palsy or other conditions that depend on technology -- tracheostomy at home or who need oxygen assistance not related to COVID-19, as well as for asthmatics or those with respiratory diseases who need daily medications.
Cardona clarified that, at the moment, Bamlanivimab is not for sale. In the next 24 hours, the Health Department would have the application process available through its website, she said.
So far, the only options available to counteract COVID-19 in seriously ill patients are antiviral and convalescent plasma, treatments that are given to hospitalized patients.
On Wednesday the Health Department reported 20 deaths from COVID-19 and 470 additional positive cases.