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Regeneron needs to provide more data on its antibody therapy: Emergency Physician

"Dr. Owais Durrani, Emergency Medicine Resident Physician at UT Health San Antonio joins Yahoo Finance’s Zack Guzman to break down the latest coronavirus updates, as Regeneron asks the FDA for emergency authorization of its antibody therapy. "

Video Transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: Shift the focus back over to the pandemic because, as we were just discussing, that is really where all of this stems from and what is the most important factor to consider in the recovery. And on that front, we did hear from the president this morning in regards to his firsthand experience with COVID-19 and why he's pushing through and supportive of the idea that Regeneron would be pushing for the FDA emergency use authorization of its antibody cocktail. That was what was administered to the president. He credited that in an interview with Fox Business, saying that it was what kind of turned his case around.

We saw Eli Lilly also file, or say they would push for the same emergency use authorization for their antibody cocktail. Both those stocks are in the green today. So for more on that, as well as all the cases we're seeing rise here in the US, want to bring on our next guest Dr. Owais Durrani, Emergency Medicine Resident Physician at UT Health San Antonio.

And Dr. Durrani, thanks for coming back on here. I mean, first, it seems like we've seen a lot of support for these antibody cocktail treatments. We were talking about it yesterday, and Eli Lilly saying that they could have a million doses of that cocktail by Q4. So talk to me about what it means if Regeneron's doing the same thing.

OWAIS DURRANI: Well, thanks for having me, Zack. I think when it comes to this therapeutic, as physicians we look at the data. And right now I would say I'm cautiously optimistic about these therapeutics, but we need more. Let me give you an example.

Dexamethasone, the steroid that the president got, and thousands of patients have gotten across the country, is a very effective therapeutic. It's only effective, though, if we administer it in a very narrow window of time. So you give it too early, too late, it's not effective and can even be harmful.

How do we know that? We know that because we've had numerous clinical trials. We've had peer-reviewed data. And we've studied all of that, and the medical community has then dispersed that information. So when I'm in the emergency department, I know when to administer that.

With these monoclonal antibodies, all we have is a press release from Regeneron showing some positive data, but we need much more data that needs to be delved into to see when this medication needs to be administered. So for example, if it is authorized, as a provider, when do I give it? There's two doses of it. Which dose goes to which patient?

What is the time frame? What are the side effects I need to monitor for? So a variety of questions that I, as a provider, will have. And we can only get the answers to those questions with more data. So right now I would be cautious about broader use, but I'm optimistic to see more data.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, and I'm sure those companies will be revealing that too. I mean, the data we have seen points to why people would be optimistic in terms of what the data seems to be showing early on. But when we talk about the vaccine, that was brought up in last night's vice presidential debate between Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence.

And I want to highlight just one of the clips here from that when Senator Harris was asked about whether or not she would take a vaccine. It's a question on a lot of Americans' minds. Here's what she had to say.

KAMALA HARRIS: If the public health professionals, if Dr. Fauci, if the doctors tell us that we should take it, I'll be the first in line to take it, absolutely. But if Donald Trump tells us that we should take it, I'm not taking it.

ZACK GUZMAN: I think it's important to highlight there, too, Dr. Durrani, the idea that that is something that Americans are struggling with. We've seen an increase in terms of Americans saying that they might be hesitant to take that vaccine, as we've seen the FDA go back and forth with the White House in terms of what rules need to be in place to say definitively that these vaccine candidates are safe. What's your take on that?

OWAIS DURRANI: Exactly. So as a front-line provider, myself and my colleagues are the first to want a vaccine. We treat COVID patients day after day, and we're, you know, in the line of exposure, so we want a vaccine before anyone else, essentially. I will say that right now of all the clinical trials that are in phase III in the United States, none has demonstrated efficacy or a proper safety profile of these vaccines. And so we need to get that data, obviously.

Unfortunately, this has been a process that has had politics involved in it, and there's no space for politics when it comes to development of vaccines or any other therapeutic. And as you kind of alluded to, back in May 71% of people, if I recall correctly, would be likely to or definitely take a vaccine, and that number is now down to 51% as of a few days ago. And the reason for that is the politics involved.

So we need public faith in a scientific process that is rigorous, and then we need the FDA and other regulators to really look at that data and make sure that they approve a vaccine that is safe and effective. And so we-- I was happy to see the FDA submit stricter guidelines to the White House, and we really need to make sure that the White House then approves those, even if that vaccine is pushed back by a few weeks. Because it's going to do no one good if no one takes the vaccine and we're still in the same situation that we're in right now.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, to your point, I mean, we haven't gotten the data. It's October 8. Pfizer's CEO said that maybe it would come in the month of October, he said before the election. A lot of people were asking whether or not that was political.

But we still haven't gotten that data. And the FDA, if they want to monitor patients for two months afterwards, it will be past the election. President Trump has not been pleased with that idea.

But lastly, I just want to ask you-- because we are seeing cases continue to rise here. It's not necessarily exponential increases. It's up to about 46,000 as of yesterday in terms of new daily cases. That was up by about 2,500 versus seven days ago, so the trend is rising, though not exponential.

But one of the questions, and one of the things that caught my eye, was a new survey out looking into the idea that more Americans might be getting lockdown fatigue, or social distancing fatigue, or just really not realizing the risks that are still out there. The survey looked at whether or not the respondents in a survey would say if they would attend different venues in the next month without a vaccine.

And I just want to highlight the upticks we've seen, whether it's bars or stadiums, it's about a 10% rise in people saying they'd go to a gym without a vaccine, and 11% of people saying they'd go to a bar without a vaccine. But the CDC just said that it's still airborne. And you've got to worry about that spreading indoors, even beyond six feet. So what do you make of that and maybe how we're all getting a little bit more comfortable with the idea we can go back out?

OWAIS DURRANI: Yeah, so I feel like we're kind of sitting-- sitting in April, and we had a conversation back then. I feel like we're about to have the same conversation again. You know, as you mentioned, 46,000 cases. We have 25 states that are in a red zone, 25 in DC that are in a yellow that might move to the red zone.

In Texas here, I think we have six of the 15 hot spot counties here, and we just-- the governor just released opening of bars to 50% capacity come next week there. And so we're kind of in a zone where we can act and prevent what happened over the summer, or we can head back down towards that path. The summer was supposed to be a reprise, but obviously that didn't happen.

As we know as temperatures cool down, this airborne virus, as well as the virus that lives on surfaces, is more resilient in colder temperatures. And so we need to have our guards up even more. I know it-- I know there is some level of fatigue, but we are kind of, hopefully, in the last few months of this. And so we need to truly, you know, hunker down and socially distance, wear a mask, and participate in good hygiene.

The other thing I'll say is flu season's upon us. We all need to get flu shots. The initial symptoms of flu and COVID are very similar. And so when you show up to a clinic or emergency department, it's going to be hard to determine what you have. And so getting that flu shot is going to be that extra security blanket that's going to help us get through the season.

ZACK GUZMAN: A good reminder. Dr. Owais Durrani, always love having you on. Thanks again for taking the time. I know you're busy dealing with this on the front lines. Good luck.

OWAIS DURRANI: Thank you.