Donald Trump has said he asked US pharmaceutical companies working on experimental coronavirus drugs to approach Boris Johnson’s doctors and offer their help, after it emerged that the British prime minister was in intensive care.
In an evening press briefing, Trump did not name the companies or the drugs, but earlier in the day he held a conference about therapeutic drugs with the heads of four US pharmaceutical and biotech companies: Amgen, Genetech, Gilead, and Regeneron.
Trump has consistently promoted the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine in combination with an antibiotic azithromycin, as a “game-changer” in the battle with coronavirus, although his own health officials have cautioned that there is no proof they are effective.
“I’ve asked two of the leading companies ... They’ve come with the solutions and just have done incredible jobs – and I’ve asked him to contact London immediately,” Trump said. “They’ve really advanced therapeutics … and they have arrived in London already. The London office has whatever they need. We’ll see if we can be of help. We’ve contacted all of Boris’s doctors, and we’ll see what is going to take place, but they are ready to go.”
“They’ve had meetings with the doctors, and we’ll see whether or not they want to go that route,” Trump added. “But when you’re in intensive care it’s a big deal. So they’re there and they’re ready.”
Trump heaped praise on Johnson, who he has consistently seen as one of his closest allies.
“We’re very saddened to hear that he was taken into intensive care this afternoon, a little while ago, and Americans are all praying for his recovery,” the president said. “He’s been a really good friend. He’s been really something very special: strong, resolute, doesn’t quit, doesn’t give up.”
Asked by the Guardian whether the prime minister’s initially relaxed approach to the pandemic may have been a mistake, Trump – who took a similar approach in the early weeks – replied cautiously.
“Boris was looking at it differently. He was looking at it earlier. He was looking at it like: ride it out. There were many people thinking about riding it out. Meaning, whatever it is, it is. But then you see what starts to happen, then the numbers become monumental, and they decided not to do that.”
Describing Monday’s call with the four pharmaceutical company heads, the White House spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, said: “We are working hard to tear down barriers, cut red tape, & encourage cooperation across private industries and government.”