Ala. top infectious disease expert: Convalescent plasma doesn’t show much benefit for COVID-19 patients

Emergency approval for convalescent plasma

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Convalescent plasma is joining Remdesivir and steroids as FDA emergency approved treatments for COVID-19.

The Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization Sunday for plasma from those who’ve recovered from COVID-19 to be used as a treatment.

President Trump called the authorization a “breakthrough.”

Though other health experts say the treatment needs more study.

State infectious disease expert Dr. Michael Saag with UAB said there are three ways treatments can be legally used on the general population.

  1. Clinical trials
  2. FDA emergency authorization
  3. FDA formal approval

Emergency authorization by the FDA happens before solid data is available and emergency treatments are needed, according to Dr. Saag.

He explained a formal approval is a usual protocol for using drugs or treatments on the general public and that can only happen once thoroughly tested data from trials proves a treatment works and is safe.

Dr. Saag said he was surprised by the FDA’s decision because there is not enough randomized tests to analyze the efficacy of convalescent plasma.

“It doesn’t look all that impressive to me. I’m concerned we’re seeing politics intervene with medical practice. We saw that with hydroxychloroquine. We went through four months of complete turmoil until finally this weekend the FDA commissioner finally said it doesn’t work; which a lot of us knew a couple of months ago. Frankly, because the President believes it works, it stays in the public domain,” said Dr. Saag. " To me, there’s no place for politics in public health and there’s no place for politics in the practice of medicine.”

Dr. Saag said the preliminary data doesn't show convalescent plasma causing harm to patients but he said the data also doesn't show much benefit.

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