Regeneron drug used to treat president being tested here

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- For months now, the pandemic has been adding new words to our lexicon such as "essential workers," "social distancing," and "remote learning."

Now you can add "Regeneron" to the list.

The pharmaceutical company provided one of the drugs in an antibiotic cocktail given to President Donald Trump when he was infected with the novel coronavirus.

In his exclusive interview with ABC11's Jonah Kaplan this week, the president said, "I had something they would call therapeutics, Regeneron. It's called therapeutic. To me, it was a cure because as soon as I took it was like, it was like a ball was lifted off my back. It was incredible."

It's probably the highest-profile endorsement any of Regeneron's drugs have ever gotten.

But the presidential hype wasn't a distraction for the scientists at Wake Research where they are testing that drug.

Though you may have never heard of Regeneron before two weeks ago, those scientists and study participants in the Triangle and Sandhills knew about the drug long before the president got sick with COVID-19.

"What we're trying to do is to basically get this into people who are going to have a known exposure to coronavirus with the hope that it proves itself as a preventive measure by giving them these antibodies," said Dr. Matthew Hong.

Dr. Hong is heading up the study on what many hope will turn out to be a successful treatment for COVID-19.

"The therapeutics do offer a lot of immediate promise that it's something that you can use while someone is actively ill and at least shorten the course and the impact of the disease," Hong said.

But these experiments are targeted at showing whether the Regeneron drug can also be used to prevent someone from contracting the coronavirus.

And because of that, Wake Research can't accept just anyone like it can for the vaccine trials they're conducting.

Instead, Hong said, they are looking for "...people who have household exposures, that someone that they live with has tested positive for coronavirus but they themselves are not yet symptomatic."

And that person has to start the study within four days of the positive diagnosis in their home.

Hong said there is hope that within the next six months to a year, drugs such as the Regeneron monoclonal antibody can be working side-by-side with an effective vaccine.

"If we blunt the disease, if we blunt the illness, if we lessen the hospitalizations, if we lessen how bad people feel, and hopefully save lives as well, that'll be good enough," Hong said.

In the meantime, Wake Research needs more patients who are early in their exposure to COVID-19 who will be rewarded for their participation not only with cash but also with a sense of pride.

"You can be literally a soldier in this war against coronavirus," Hong noted.

Click on this link to sign up for the study.
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