September 23, 2020 -- The National Institutes for Health is expanding enrollment in two clinical trials to see if convalescent plasma helps the recovery of people hospitalized with the coronavirus.
“The evidence on convalescent plasma as a treatment for severe cases of COVID-19 is promising but incomplete. We need to carry out rigorous randomized control clinical trials to determine how this therapy can improve outcomes,” NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., said in a news release. “While the world waits for an effective vaccine, it is vital that we simultaneously expand the options for available treatments for those currently suffering from the worst effects of this disease.”
The decision comes less than a month after an NIH expert panel said there’s no evidence to support the use of convalescent plasma to treat COVID-19 patients. The panel said doctors should not consider it a standard of care until more research is completed.
In the latest news release, the NIH said observational studies indicate that convalescent plasma may help people severely ill with the virus, but “prospective, well-controlled randomized trials” are needed to determine if it really works.
Convalescent plasma is taken from people who’ve recovered from COVID-19. It contains antibodies and other components that may help people recover from the coronavirus.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration earlier granted emergency use authorization for the use of convalescent plasma for the treatment of COVID-19.
Operation Warp Speed, the federal program to expedite the battle against COVID-19, including development of a vaccine, is providing $48 million for the plasma testing.
Both randomized, placebo-controlled trials were launched in April, one by NYU Langone Health in New York and the other at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee.