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What is dexamethasone? What we know about Trump’s latest treatment


CARDIFF, UNITED KINGDOM – JUNE 16: In this photo illustration, a close-up of a box of Dexamethasone tablets in a pharmacy on June 16, 2020 in Cardiff, United Kingdom. Results of a trial announced today have shown that Dexamethasone, a cheap and widely used steroid drug which is used to reduce inflammation, reduced death rates by around a third in the most severely ill COVID-19 patients who were admitted to hospital. Researches have predicted 5,000 lives could have been saved had the drug been used to treat patients in the UK at the start of the pandemic.(Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – President Donald Trump has received his first dose of the anti-inflammatory steroid dexamethasone while getting treatment at a military hospital, his doctors revealed at a Sunday news conference.

Dexamethasone and similar steroids now are known to improve survival when used in hospitalized patients who need extra oxygen. It can be harmful for less sick patients, according to medical experts.

Dr. Brian Garibaldi, a specialist in pulmonary critical care who is on the team treating the president at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, said Trump isn’t showing any side effects “that we can tell.”

Dexamethasone is on the FDA’s temporary list of drugs that can be used at a doctor’s discretion to treat COVID-19. According to doctors, the drug can decrease mortality.

Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and health economist, tweeted Sunday that the use of dexamethasone is a sign for concern.

“I think we need to trust not their words but trust the signals of what drugs they have given Trump. Dexamethasone use clearly puts Trump as now a SERIOUS #COVID19 patient based on WHO guidelines for use of this drug,” wrote Feigl-Ding. “No way to justify mild to moderate case anymore.”

Some medical experts, like CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta, have raised concerns the president may have developed pneumonia. Trump physician, Navy Cmdr. Dr. Sean Conley, did not directly answer a question about whether Trump has pneumonia.

Oral dexamethasone has been shown to reduce the length of hospital stays and ICU admissions in adults with respiratory issues like pneumonia. Healio writes:

“Several studies have shown that corticosteroids can reduce length of hospital stay. However, most studies have investigated IV corticosteroids and it still remains unclear for what patients benefit most from corticosteroid treatments,” Esther Wittermans, MD, of the department of medical microbiology and immunology at St. Antonius Hospital, Nieuwegein, the Netherlands, said during her presentation. “Therefore, the objective of the study was to investigate the effect of a short course of oral dexamethasone on length of stay and to assess whether effect of dexamethasone is disease severity dependent.”

Earlier on Friday, Trump’s physician said the president received a dose of an experimental antibody combination by Regeneron that is in clinical trials.

The drugs work in different ways — the antibodies help the immune system rid the body of virus and remdesivir curbs the virus’s ability to multiply.

He also was taking zinc, vitamin D, an antacid called famotidine, melatonin and aspirin. None of those have been proven to be effective against COVID-19.

Trump apparently is not receiving hydroxychloroquine, a drug he widely promoted that has been shown in many studies to be ineffective for preventing or treating COVID-19.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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