Updated: Dec 31, 2020
As the United States is struggling to combat the still-rising COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. president issued an emergency use authorization for convalescent plasma as a form of treatment for hospitalized COVID-19 patients (FDA News, 2020). Many people, including Secretary Azar, believe that this is a milestone in President Trump’s efforts to prevent death caused by the coronavirus. According to the FDA, convalescent plasma is an effective form of treatment and has many known and potential benefits that outweigh the risks (FDA News, 2020). However, as this is such an unforeseen and rapid release of a new form of treatment, the FDA and other scientists and doctors need to watch the effects and consequences of this form of treatment over time.
Convalescent plasma is harvested from patients whose immune systems have already created antibodies to fight the COVID-19 virus. This plasma is then tested and purified to isolate the antibodies, which can then be injected into another patient whose body has not yet been able to create these antibodies itself. This plasma-derived therapy is inserted into the patient’s body until he or she can generate antibodies on his or her own (Facher, 2020). Although this seems to be an amazing milestone against the COVID-19 pandemic, there are many aspects of this form of treatment that have not yet been confirmed or are not completely clear. Studies and clinical trials released about the use of convalescent plasma for COVID-19 patients are not quite reliable yet to make conclusive results about its effectiveness (Facher, 2020). For example, Mayo Clinic performed a clinical study but it didn’t include a placebo group for comparison, making it difficult for experts to be able to measure the levels of success or impact. Because of this weak data, many people, including Fauci and the director of the National Institutes of Health, are discouraging the FDA from issuing a EUA for convalescent plasma in fear of the risks that it has not been completely tested. Even though studies and clinical trials, including the Mayo Clinic study, have proven that this plasma therapy can help many COVID-19 patients, too many factors surrounding this treatment are unclear and it can’t be touted as a ‘miracle’ cure just yet.
Furthermore, certain studies have proven that this form of treatment has not been helping patients at all. A study, published in JAMA, represented severely ill patients from Wuhan, China, who were taking part in a trial and were receiving convalescent plasma therapy. In the trial, the results showed that this form of therapy or treatment did not have any significant impacts on the clinical status or death rate because of the lack of procedure control (Beusekom, 2020). Many factors had a strong impact on the results, including the quality of the plasma infusion, the status of the patient, and the severity of the symptoms in the patients. This seems to show that convalescent plasma may not be ready to be used as a form of treatment to a large number of people quite yet. Many experts continue to be cautious and doubtful.
However, some experts seem to believe that this new form of treatment therapy can help to temporarily combat the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. Peter Bach, the director of Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Center for Health Policy and Outcomes, said that studies, including the Mayo Clinic study, “checks a few boxes” to show some of the benefits that can be brought from the use of convalescent plasma (Garde, 2020). Studies like these were able to support the overall theory that this form of treatment can help some patients, which is much better than none. “It raises the question of what strength of evidence is necessary to treat during a pandemic,” states Harlan Krumholz, the director of the Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation at Yale New Haven Hospital. He continues to say, “The problem is we have yet to resolve what is sufficient evidence to change the treatment paradigm.”
Overall, there are many pros and cons to the use of this plasma therapy when combatting this global pandemic, however; considering the severity of the virus, the use of convalescent plasma could be acceptable form of temporary treatment as researchers, scientists, and doctors rush to create other permanent forms of treatment and vaccines to help the world combat this pandemic.
Beusekom, Mary Van. "No Benefit of Convalescent Plasma in COVID-19 Patients, Study Finds." CIDRAP, 4 June 2020, www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2020/06/no-benefit-convalescent-plasma-covid-19-patients-study-finds. Accessed 27 Aug. 2020.
Facher, Lev. "Is Convalescent Plasma Safe and Effective? We Answer the Major Questions about the Covid-19 Treatment." Stat News, 23 Aug. 2020, www.statnews.com/2020/08/23/is-convalescent-plasma-safe-and-effective/. Accessed 27 Aug. 2020.
"FDA Issues Emergency Use Authorization for Convalescent Plasma as Potential Promising COVID–19 Treatment, Another Achievement in Administration's Fight against Pandemic." FDA News, 23 Aug. 2020, www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-issues-emergency-use-authorization-convalescent-plasma-potential-promising-covid-19-treatment. Accessed 27 Aug. 2020.
Garde, Damian. "Large Study Suggests Convalescent Plasma Can Help Treat Covid-19, but Experts Have Doubts." Stat News, 13 Aug. 2020, www.statnews.com/2020/08/13/large-study-suggests-convalescent-plasma-can-help-treat-covid-19-with-caveats/. Accessed 27 Aug. 2020.
Min Hur is a high school writer from Long Island, New York. Her work appears on the Incandescent Review. Her instagram is @_min_e_ah
Vicky Wang is a high school sophomore from Jericho, New York. She is loves photography, programming, engineering, and music. Her passion for engineering and love for designing has qualified her and her robotics team a chance to compete at the VEX Robotics state competition amongst fifty other teams, early 2020. Photography is her creative outlet and it allows her to freely express herself and capture the beauty of the world through a lens. When she is not creating, Vicky loves playing badminton, baking, and watching cute dog videos at 3am in the morning.