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Local physicians on FDA authorizing plasma treatment as months long study ends

By Vegasjon, via Wikimedia Commons

Physicians in Delaware have been using convalescent plasma for months to treat COVID-19 patients through an expanded access program led by the Mayo Clinic.

Going forward, treatment with plasma will continue through the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) emergency use authorization.

Physicians began using plasma from recovered COVID patients to treat those critically ill with the disease back in April. Since then, several hundred have received the treatment in the First State. 

ChristianaCare, Bayhealth and Beebe Healthcare are among more than 2,500 sites nationwide participating in a Mayo Clinic study testing plasma’s effectiveness. 

The study’s pre-peer review report released earlier this month indicates a lower mortality rate for those who received the treatment early on in their hospital stay. It also shows lower mortality rates for those who received a higher rate of antibodies.

Bayhealth Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gary Siegelman says this is a significant finding, but adds more research still needs to be done. 

“All 35,000 patients in the study got the plasma transfusion, but they just looked at the ones who got it early vs. the ones that got it late, and then they looked at the ones they got a higher concentration of antibodies vs. those than got a lower concentratino of antibodies,” said Siegelman. “The two weaknesses are that it hasn’t been peer reviewed and it didn’t have a true control group.”          

Siegelman and others in Delaware say there are no significant side effects with plasma and that most hospitalized COVID patients should receive the treatment—it’s commonly paired with steroids and the antiviral Remdesivir.  

“Our experience has been very favorable in that the majority of providers delivering care to COVID patients feel that convalescent plasma is an adjunctive treatment to other treatments,” said Dr. Alfred Bacon, an Infectious Disease Specialist and Medical Director of Clinical trials for the Department of Medicine at Christiana Hospital. “It’s found to be very safe.”          

The Mayo Clinic study’s expanded access program for plasma ends Friday, but Delaware hospitals will continue using plasma as the FDA authorized the treatment for emergency use earlier this week.

Physicians say the supply from the Blood Bank of Delmarva has been ample, and Beebe Healthcare has been actively reaching out to recovered COVID patients to encourage them to donate plasma.

“So we have been able to keep the supply well stocked, not just in Sussex County but throughout the state, because of those initiatives,” said Beebe Healthcare Infectious Disease Physician Dr. Bill Chasanov.

Those recovered from COVID-19 can visit the Blood Bank of Delmarva website for details on how to donate plasma. Candidates for the convalescent plasma program have tested positive for COVID-19 and have recovered and been symptom-free for at least 14 days, and meet other typical blood bank requirements.

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