USA allowed to use blood plasma to treat COVID-19
The government notes a 35 percent reduction in mortality with this method, but skeptics say these results are ambiguous.
THE WHITE HOUSE – «A truly historic announcement» – this is how US President Donald Trump called the emergency permission of the federal government to use the blood plasma of COVID-19 patients to treat patients with coronavirus, which, according to him, «save countless lives».
In a press briefing, Trump and Health Minister Alex Azar noted a 35 percent reduction in deaths in people under 80 who were not on a ventilator, one month after receiving early treatment.
«When developing drugs, we dream of something like a 35 percent reduction in mortality., – said Azar, Minister of Health and Human Services. – This is a great achievement in patient care».
The source of blood plasma, which is rich in antibodies, is from patients who have recovered from the coronavirus. It has been used to treat tens of thousands of COVID-19 patients in the US.
Immediately prior to the President’s speech, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized – but technically not fully approved – use of blood plasma with antibodies obtained from patients who have recovered from COVID-19.
The day before, Trump had said on Twitter that «the deep state or someone else in the FDA makes it very difficult for pharmaceutical companies to recruit people to test vaccines and therapeutics».
«Obviously, they hope to postpone the response until November 3rd. Focus on speed and saving lives!» – urged Trump.
On November 3, the United States will hold a presidential election in which Trump will be opposed by the Democratic nominee – former vice president Joe Biden.
The head of the FDA, Stephen Hahn, told reporters that his department had come to the conclusion that it would be advisable to issue an emergency permission for the use of blood plasma after analyzing the case histories of 20 thousand out of 70 thousand patients who received such treatment, as well as other studies..
«Improved survival by 35 percent – this is a rather significant clinical benefit, – he added. – We see a lot of demand for it from doctors across the country.».
Plasma therapy has been used successfully for other diseases, including Ebola and diphtheria. However, scientists, including those working for the US government, are more cautious about using such a method to treat coronavirus, arguing that the results are mixed and that there is no evidence yet that it works in the case of COVID-19..
After a journalist asked Trump about the somewhat conflicting wording that the President and Khan used to describe the effectiveness of blood plasma, Trump, who called plasma treatment «very effective», concluded an 18-minute press conference by answering only three questions.
Ben Korb, spokesman for the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, said Trump is showing a reluctance to listen to medical experts and that «breakthroughs require data collection» to ensure the safety and effectiveness of treatment.
«This process is necessary to ensure our safety and to ensure that the treatment does not turn out to be worse than the disease itself., – said Korb. – I am deeply concerned about this action and the timing of it.».
The announcement was made ahead of the opening of the GOP convention at which Trump will be formally nominated for presidency..
Trump’s first FDA chief Scott Gottlieb said on Sunday in the program «Facing the country» on CBS that plasma, «will probably be useful» patients with coronavirus, but noted concerns about lack of evidence.
«I think some people would like to see more meticulous data in the rationale for this decision.», – said Gottlieb.
It is noteworthy that the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is a member of the White House working group on coronavirus, was not at the president’s Sunday press conference..
Fauci was one of those trying to stop the FDA from issuing an emergency clearance, the New York Times reported last week. According to the newspaper, Fauci and others argued that the available data on this treatment method was too weak..
Trump, whom Biden and the Democrats blame for the inept response to the US coronavirus epidemic, has often said that a cure for this infectious disease will appear soon and that the virus will simply disappear..
Many U.S. health experts say coronavirus vaccine won’t come until the end of this – the beginning of next year and only if clinical trials prove its effectiveness.
According to Johns Hopkins University, the coronavirus pandemic has claimed the lives of nearly 177,000 people in the United States. In total, about 5.7 million people were infected in the country. On both counts, the US is ahead of any other country..