In its frenzy to stop COVID-19, the US FDA has allowed the emergency use of convalescent plasma to treat the virus. According to the FDA, over 70,000 Americans have received the plasma for treatment. The agency also said that plasma has more benefits than risks.
Using Blood Plasma Against COVID-19
CNN reports that convalescent plasma comes from blood samples of people who have recovered from COVID-19. Near the end of March, the FDA allowed US scientists to study convalescent plasma and how they can use it to treat COVID-19. While the FDA says the treatment is promising, the actual supply of blood plasma is limited. People must also receive it from donors.
The FDA’s Claims on Plasma
Secretary Alex Azar said that the FDA had to issue the emergency order because more than 70,000 people volunteered for clinical studies. Azar is the Secretary of the US Health and Human Services. Moreover, he referred to data that said patients who received blood plasma enjoyed a 35% higher survival rate.
Today, we issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for investigational convalescent plasma for the treatment of hospitalized COVID-19 patients as part of the agency’s ongoing efforts to fight #COVID19. https://t.co/sxWrblWsxr pic.twitter.com/DnTrJaDTX1
— U.S. FDA (@US_FDA) August 23, 2020
This data came from an August 12 pre-print study that showed 8.7% of the patients treated with plasma within three days of diagnosis died. And about 12% of the patients treated within four days died. The difference stands at 37%. Also, this study has still not undergone peer review.
Moving Forward with Plasma
The FDA has said that several doctors have treated COVID-19 patients with blood plasma, though they haven’t yet figured out if it works.
Other worries include a sufficient supply of plasma. The FDA’s move will allow more doctors to use plasma. But without tracking data, they won’t know which donors have useful samples, or which patients need them most.