The president received a dose of the steroid dexamethasone on Saturday after his oxygen levels dropped, Conley said Sunday. Dexamethasone is a “very potent” drug that can carry serious side effects, CBS News medical contributor Dr. David Agus said after the briefing.
“Dexamethasone is a very potent steroid that can have brain effects. There can be a manic behavior associated with dexamethasone, so certainly important that we understand that,” Agus said. “Dexamethasone is a very strong medicine. When used early in this infection, it can actually make it worse by blocking immune function. When used late, it can treat significant pulmonary inflammation, which I assume he has.”
Conley said the president had experienced “two episodes of transient drops in his oxygen saturation” since he was infected, and confirmed the use of supplemental oxygen on Friday, before the president was transferred to Walter Reed.
Results of a clinical trial released in June showed dexamethasone was effective in treating patients who needed supplemental oxygen or were placed on ventilators, with little benefit for those with less severe cases. Agus said imaging of the president’s chest would reveal the extent of the damage from the virus.
“The doctor had mentioned they had imagings of the chest, and that showed inflammation, I assume. He said it was the ‘usual expected findings,’ which I assume — he doesn’t give us any quantification. Is it 10%, 20%, 50% of the lungs that are involved? We don’t know,” Agus said. “But certainly now, he is on the strongest medicines shown to have benefit, which are monoclonal antibodies, remdesivir and dexamethasone.”