The Food and Drug Administration has recently authorized the emergency use of blood plasma from COVID-19 survivors as a treatment for sick patients. The announcement came after President Donald Trump publicly pressured the agency to speed the development of drugs and vaccines.
Plasma should not be the new standard of care for COVID-19, the agency said in a statement. However, it may shorten or reduce the severity of the illness in hospitalized patients.
In a statement commissioner Stephen Hahn said: “We’re encouraged by the early promising data that we’ve seen about convalescent plasma.”
According to the preliminary research the plasma, which contains antibodies against the coronavirus, could help improve the survival rate of people hospitalized with the disease. But the treatment has only been tested in small groups of COVID-19 patients, and not in the large.
In its statement FDA said: “Facilitating the enrollment of patients into any of the ongoing randomized clinical trials is critically important for the definitive demonstration of safety and efficacy of COVID-19 convalescent plasma.”
Now emergency authorization is not full FDA approval, but it indicates that the agency believes the benefits of the therapy outweigh the risks. One other treatment, the antiviral drug remdesivir, is authorized to treat COVID-19.
Now the reports said that thousands of COVID-19 patients in the US have already been treated with plasma through clinical trials and emergency access programs. The FDA has been helping coordinate those efforts since March. The new authorization, though, would knock down some logistical barriers and make it easier for patients to access the treatment.