As Trump praises plasma, researchers fight to complete critical studies


Randomized trials outside the United States have also not been able to prove the effectiveness of plasma. A trial at seven medical centers in Wuhan, the likely zero point of the virus, concluded that convalescent plasma did not significantly improve patients’ recovery time.

As in the US trials, the Wuhan study struggled to recruit participants and ended early with just 103 volunteers. A recent analysis by researchers, including Drs. Joyner and Casadevall, found that several studies abroad suggested that plasma was effective, but not all were randomized.

The Trump administration has touted recovering plasma as a rare bright spot in the pandemic.

Eager to portray his administration as a march towards a “cure,” Mr Trump mentioned plasma alongside remdesivir and dexamethasone, two treatments for the coronavirus that have been shown to be effective in randomized trials.

Dr Deborah L. Birx, head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, at one point pushed the federal government to secure 500,000 bags of plasma to be stored for a possible wave of infections in the fall, according to a senior administration official. She also lobbied for plasma transfusions in nursing homes, the official said.

When asked about the claims, a task force official said Dr Birx wanted to act quickly to capitalize on the period after a person is infected when their plasma contains higher levels of antibodies. Dr Birx said she wanted clinical trials to include vulnerable people in nursing homes, the official added.

FDA commissioner Dr Stephen M. Hahn began discussing the benefits of plasma during White House briefings in March. In interviews and testimony to Congress since then, he has touted it as one of the few therapies that the agency can publicly endorse.

Last week, he said the FDA was “encouraged by the first promising data that we have seen” and that it is “studying that data to determine, ultimately, the safety and effectiveness of this product.” .


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