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Memphis News & Weather | Memphis, TN | WATN - localmemphis.com

UT Health Science Center researchers impressed by early participation in Regeneron COVID-19 treatment drug study

Treatment is being tested on those with COVID-19 and those in close contact with the infected.

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — Doctors at University of Tennessee Health Science Center said their COVID-19 treatment study is already off to a better than expected and positive start.

Researchers are seeing how well a COVID-19 treatment drug works with the area's diverse population. 

The update comes the same week Pfizer announced initial results of its COVID-19 vaccine trial - in which Memphians are participating - showed more than 90% effectiveness.

"We have been pleasantly surprised in the interest," Dr. John Jefferies with UTHSC said.

"We've been much busier than anticipated," Dr. Amber Thacker with UTHSC added.

It's been an active month for UTHSC researchers, as they oversee a potentially groundbreaking study with the company Regeneron and its COVID-19 treatment.

"We've had more patients sign up for it than we have been able to accommodate because we didn't anticipate that kind of response," Dr. Thacker said.

In late September, those at UTHSC and Regional One Health announced a partnership study with Regeneron's antibody cocktail.

Days after that, the drug drew national attention - and new local participation demand - after doctors gave President Donald Trump the same treatment to help his recovery from COVID-19.

"You probably wouldn't give it to the President of the United States if you thought it had untoward effects," Dr. Jefferies said.

The two-tiered study will provide the Regeneron treatment drug to those who recently tested positive or those in close contact with someone with COVID-19 - and a placebo for others.

The local research, along with dozens of Memphians taking part in Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine trial, could be pivotal in the broader understanding of how to stop or treat the virus.

"It's really great for Memphis that we have multiple options. We have vaccine trials here. We have treatment trials here, because it will ultimately take all of those things to help slow the spread of the coronavirus," Dr. Thacker said.

It's unclear when researchers will be able to provide the first significant update with the Regeneron trial, that's being conducted in about 100 places around the world, including Memphis.