Speed Reads

friends in high places

The CEO of Regeneron, Trump's new favorite COVID-19 drugmaker, belongs to Trump's golf course

President Trump is one of 10 or fewer people in the world granted "compassionate use" authorization for Regeneron Pharmaceuticals' experimental COVID-19 treatment, REGN-COV2, and he's a fan. In video testimonials this week, he called the Regeneron monoclonal antibody cocktail a miraculous "cure" — it isn't a cure — and promoted it with the fervor of a TV pitchman.

Regeneron's shares jumped another 3.5 percent after Trump posted the video. Hours later, Regeneron announced it is seeking emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 treatment. Behind the scenes, but also on Fox News, Trump is "pushing the Food and Drug Administration to quickly grant emergency clearance" for REGN-COV2, The Washington Post reports. "Trump and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows have called FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn to urge him to accelerate the agency's review of the drug."

Trump owned shares in Regeneron, "though government records show he sold them between June 2016 and June 2017," the Financial Times reports. And its founder and CEO, Dr. Leonard Schleifer, is Trump's "occasional golf buddy," FT adds. Schleifer "joined the Trump National Golf Club in Westchester" after his company took off, and he and Trump "would play an occasional round of golf. For years, Regeneron paid for Mr. Schleifer's $18,500 golf club membership, though it ended that perk in 2015." He is still a member of Trump's golf club, The Guardian reports.

"Len and President Trump are acquaintances from both living in the Westchester area for many years but didn't have any regular contact until this year, when they've discussed matters around COVID on occasion," Regeneron told CNN Business. CNN also notes that, according to Federal Election Commission records, Schleifer primarily donated to Democratic candidates and PACs in 2016 and 2018.

Medical experts say REGN-COV2 and a similar monoclonal antibody treatment being produced by Eli Lilly have real promise for people newly infected with COVID-19, though probably not for people hospitalized with severe symptoms, but Regeneron says it has only 50,000 doses — about the number of Americans diagnosed with COVID-19 every day — and will produce another 250,000 within months. "The Trump administration has already bought Regeneron's initial 300,000 doses at a cost of $450 million, and plans to give them to patients for free," FT reports. "After that, the company says it does not know how much it will charge."