In many ways, the COVID-19 crisis is similar to the HIV/AIDS crisis decades ago. Both are infectious diseases and billions of dollars have been spent, in both cases in pursuit of a vaccine. One for HIV/AIDs was never found. Hence the importance of a name many may not know, but in fact should be familiar with—that is, Dr. David Ho. He led a team back in the 1990s that led to the cocktail of drugs ensuring that those infected with HIV/AIDS could survive. Recently interviewed by Scott Pelley on CBS’ 60 Minutes, the doctor, and others interviewed on this venerable show, warn the audience not to disrespect COVID-19. For example, although POTUS was infected with SARS-CoV-2 and spent a couple nights in the hospital and declared he took what essentially is a cure for COVID-19, there is in fact no such cure. POTUS suggested recently that the people shouldn’t’ be afraid of COVID-19. Dr. Ho thinks a healthy dose of fear is in order for a pathogen that’s taken out over 1 million people in about 8 months worldwide, over 200,000 alone in America, leading to his point: “We have to give this virus its due respect.”
Monoclonal Antibody Research @Columbia University
Dr. Ho has actually been focusing on HIV/AIDS up until the COVID-19 pandemic. In the 60 Minutes interview, Dr. Ho shared the effort there in New York to work around the clock on monoclonal antibodies, the type of biologic drug taken by POTUS (e.g. Regeneron’s cocktail known as REGN-COV2).
Ho tells Pelley that the monoclonal antibodies are promising and that there are two leading candidates (written on extensively by TrialSite) including Lilly’s LY-CoV555 and Regeneron’s REGN-COV2. But although POTUS has been actively promoting these powerful investigational drugs on television (perhaps because the vaccine he promised won’t be ready), Dr. Ho cautions that the positive results reported by these pharmaceutical companies to date are “preliminary” ones. Ho suggests we’ll have to see a lot more data from many more patients before any definitive declarations can be made.
Other Leading Researchers on 60 Minutes
In addition to the informative interview with Dr. Ho, Scott Pelley also talks with Dr. James Pruden, (St. Joseph’s Hospital), Dr. Kevin Tracey, (Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research) and Dr. Christina Brennan (Northwell Health). An important episode to catch, it was produced by Nicole Young.
Dr. David Ho, MD, Columbia University, Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons
Call to Action: Remember, there is no cure for COVID-19. There are treatments that can help patients in some cases. For example, the U.S. FDA has granted emergency use authorization (EUA) for both Remdesivir (Gilead) and for convalescent plasma. Some feel the FDA was too aggressive with this latter decision and that it needed more testing. Additionally, thanks to the RECOVERY trial at University of Oxford, dexamethasone has been acknowledged as helpful to reduce deaths in severe COVID-19 where patients need mechanical breathing support (e.g. ventilator). Note, there are promising treatments in investigation such as the monoclonal antibodies and antivirals, such as Favipiravir (approved in Russia, China, Bangladesh and India), and economical treatments not proven yet, such as Ivermectin that are still used in developing world but may actually start getting attention and research dollars in the U.S., thanks in part to consistent TrialSite reporting.