Some local COVID-19 patients have been given the same therapy as President Donald Trump when he was hospitalized.

Nearly 50 people in our area have taken part in a study of the Regeneron antibodies through Avera Health. While early results are promising, the Regeneron antibody cocktail is still awaiting FDA approval for emergency use in severe cases.

While President Trump promised Americans they would soon be getting the antibody treatment that he said cured the disease for him, that’s actually not the case because it’s still being tested.

Studies of the experimental therapy from Regeneron is going on in 1500 patients worldwide.
KELOLAND News spoke with one local man who was part of the on-going study of the antibodies through Avera.

Minnehaha County Circuit Court Judge Brad Zell was out of the courtroom for nearly a month. First his wife came down with COVID-19 symptoms.

“She’s a teacher. She was teaching and one of her aides came down with it at the same time,” Judge Brad Zell said.

A week later, he started feeling sick too.

“Not as bad as my wife. I had headaches, I had coughing, I did get chills and fatigue,” Zell said.

Minnehaha Co. Circuit Court Judge Brad Zell was diagnosed with COVID-19 in September and took part in the Avera Health Regeneron antibody study

When he tested positive for COVID-19, he was asked to take part in Avera Health’s experimental antibody therapy study. He agreed, but he didn’t know if he would actually get the treatment, or a placebo.

“This is considered a double-blind, placebo controlled trial. So we don’t know who’s getting the drug and who’s on the placebo arm of this. We speculate all the time who is getting the drug and who isn’t, but at the end of the day we really don’t know,” Avera Health Researcher Amy Elliot said.

Judge Zell believes he got the real thing.

“Obviously a placebo can cause a mental approach to it, but I would say I did. And also with President Trump getting it too–within 3 to 5 days–you’re not back to where you were, but you are functional. You can do things,” Zell said.

Researchers say preliminary results of the study on the first 275 patients given the Regeneron antibody cocktail were promising.

“It showed the drug had an effect in decreasing viral load, so how much of the virus was in the system, as well as decreasing symptoms and the length of symptoms. Both of which are extremely significant when we are talking about the treatment of COVID,” Elliot said.

If the antibody treatments prove to be overall effective, they are expected to become more widely available early next year. Regeneron says it will be able to produce about 250,000 doses a month. Two other pharmaceutical companies are also developing similar treatments.