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Ben Carson says he was 'desperately ill' from COVID-19

Ben Carson said he believes he's 'out of the woods at this point,' but got 'extremely sick' after being diagnosed with coronavirus earlier this month.

WASHINGTON — Ben Carson, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, said Friday he's convinced that an unapproved, experimental antibody therapy saved his life when he was "desperately ill" from coronavirus. 

Earlier this month, Carson tested positive for COVID-19 after attending President Donald Trump's election night party at the White House. Others who were at the party also later tested positive, including White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. 

Carson, a former neurosurgeon, explained in a Facebook post Friday that he believes he's "out of the woods at this point" but was "extremely sick" after being diagnosed with the coronavirus. He disclosed that his wife, Candy, also had COVID-19, the disease the coronavirus causes.

"I have several co-morbidities and after a brief period when I only experienced minor discomfort, the symptoms accelerated and I became desperately ill," Carson wrote. "President Trump was following my condition and cleared me for the monoclonal antibody therapy that he had previously received, which I am convinced saved my life."

Trump was treated for several days at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in October after he contracted the virus. During his hospital stay, the president received Regeneron's experimental antibody treatment that's meant to help the immune system fight COVID-19. Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. has asked for emergency use authorization for its antibody treatment. 

"While I am blessed to have the best medical care in the world (and I am convinced it saved my life), we must prioritize getting comparable treatments and care to everyone as soon as possible," Carson said in his post.  

Credit: AP
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson speaks during a briefing on coronavirus in the Brady press briefing room at the White House, Saturday, March 14, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Carson, 69, also stressed that while a number of COVID-19 vaccine candidates are in the works there are steps that have to be taken before the shots can be released to the public. He warned that "trying to cause alarm by saying dangerous shortcuts were taken only serves to stoke fear." 

There is no medical evidence that the treatments Carson cited for his illness worked.

In the statement posted on Facebook, Carson said he was “extremely sick” but saw “dramatic improvement” after taking a botanical treatment derived from the oleander plant. Carson said he has underlying conditions, which he did not specify.

The White House declined comment Saturday, instead referring questions about possible intervention into Carson's medical care by Trump to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD also declined to comment.

Carson said he took Oleander 4X, but there's no evidence that the treatment or any other homeopathic medicine works against COVID-19.

Trump received the Regeneron treatment through a “compassionate use” exemption, a recognition of the above-and-beyond standard of care he receives as president.

The safety and effectiveness of the Regeneron drug have not yet been proven. There also is no way for the president or his doctors to know that the drug had any effect.

In his statement, Carson acknowledged having access to a level of medical care that is unavailable to most Americans. He said a priority must be placed on getting comparable treatments and care to the general population as quickly as possible.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

The United States has had nearly 12 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 250,000 deaths since the pandemic began, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.