Many hospitals in the United States are desperate to help very sick patients with coronavirus.
The treatment works by taking blood that has been donated from a person who has already had the coronavirus. Dr. Alan Kadish, the president of Touro College and New York Medical College, explained that when someone has recovered from a disease, a person's body builds up antibodies to fight against the virus.
"You can basically remove all the blood cells and other elements in the blood that could cause an allergic reaction, and you give the plasma to a patient who's sick," Dr. Kadish said. "And that plasma contains antibodies that can kill the virus."
Dr. Kadish said it could make a difference and allow the body to fight off the virus better. Although the FDA approved the treatment, Dr. Kadish said it is not clear yet how well plasma infusions work against COVID-19.
“Some people get it [the treatment] and get better,” he said. “Some people don’t, but some people get better anyway. So until there’s a controlled trial, we won’t really know the answer. And I would say that that applies to all of the new therapies that we’re trying for coronavirus.”
The approval of the treatment by the FDA without a controlled trial is unprecedented. But the move was made in response to staggering pandemic that has taken the world by storm.
"There's a good reason to have approval for this because we're in a situation where anything reasonable and somewhat safe should be tried because the situation is dire," Dr. Kadish said.
According to Kadish, there are risks in using this treatment. He mentioned that allergic reactions are one possible risk. The doctor also shared that plasma "could potentially cause a problem" of fluid overload because of coronavirus's effects on the heart.
The New York-based doctor said even if the treatment does work, it is unlikely that this process will be used as a "preventative measure."
“It's too big a deal to use it en mass as a protective measure,” he said. “This … requires a specific donation from a recovered patient for each therapy. It's not the kind of thing you can scale up. This is a therapy for people who are on their way to not making it who are hospitalized.”