Over the weekend, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for investigational convalescent plasma for the treatment of COVID-19 in hospitalized patients as part of the agency’s ongoing efforts to fight COVID-19. Based on scientific evidence available, the FDA concluded, as outlined in its decision memorandum, this product may be effective in treating COVID-19 and that the known and potential benefits of the product outweigh the known and potential risks of the product.
President Donald Trump announced the decision Sunday at the White House, called convalescent plasma a “powerful therapy.” He says the FDA’s action will expand access to the treatment, which is already being used. The treatment involves transferring antibodies from recovered COVID-19 patients to patients suffering from the disease.
Trump said the administration has provided $48 million to fund the Mayo Clinic study that studied the efficiency in patients that have the virus.
The action follows the FDA’s extensive review of the science and data generated over the past several months stemming from efforts to facilitate emergency access to convalescent plasma for patients as clinical trials to definitively demonstrate safety and efficacy remain ongoing.
“Through this study, over 100,000 Americans have already enrolled to receive this treatment, and it is proven to reduce mortality by 35%,” Trump said. “It’s a tremendous number. The FDA, M.I.T., Harvard, and Mount Sinai Hospital have also found convalescent plasma to be a very effective method of fighting this horrible disease. Based on the science and the data, the FDA has made the independent determination that the treatment is safe and very effective.”
Trump also announced the administration provided up to $270 million to the American Red Cross and America’s blood centers to support the collection of up to 360,000 units of plasma.
Alex Azar, Health and Human Services Secretary said, “The FDA’s emergency authorization for convalescent plasma is a milestone achievement in President Trump’s efforts to save lives from COVID-19,” said Secretary Azar. “The Trump Administration recognized the potential of convalescent plasma early on. Months ago, the FDA, BARDA, and private partners began work on making this product available across the country while continuing to evaluate data through clinical trials. Our work on convalescent plasma has delivered broader access to the product than is available in any other country and reached more than 70,000 American patients so far. We are deeply grateful to Americans who have already donated and encourage individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 to consider donating convalescent plasma.”
The FDA determined that it is reasonable to believe that COVID-19 convalescent plasma may be effective in lessening the severity or shortening the length of COVID-19 illness in some hospitalized patients. The agency also determined that the known and potential benefits of the product, when used to treat COVID-19, outweigh the known and potential risks of the product and that that there are no adequate, approved, and available alternative treatments.
FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D. said, “I am committed to releasing safe and potentially helpful treatments for COVID-19 as quickly as possible in order to save lives. We’re encouraged by the early promising data that we’ve seen about convalescent plasma. The data from studies conducted this year shows that plasma from patients who’ve recovered from COVID-19 has the potential to help treat those who are suffering from the effects of getting this terrible virus,” said Dr. Hahn. “At the same time, we will continue to work with researchers to continue randomized clinical trials to study the safety and effectiveness of convalescent plasma in treating patients infected with the novel coronavirus.”
The EUA is not intended to replace randomized clinical trials and facilitating the enrollment of patients into any of the ongoing randomized clinical trials is critically important for the definitive demonstration of safety and efficacy of COVID-19 convalescent plasma. The FDA continues to recommend that the designs of ongoing randomized clinical trials of COVID-19 convalescent plasma and other therapeutic agents remain unaltered, as COVID-19 convalescent plasma does not yet represent a new standard of care based on the current available evidence.
An Expanded Access Program External Link Disclaimer for convalescent plasma was initiated in early April to fill an urgent need to provide patient access to a medical product of possible benefit during a time that the FDA was working with researchers to facilitate the initiation of randomized clinical trials to study convalescent plasma. As the number of single patient IND requests started to number in the hundreds on a daily basis, the FDA worked collaboratively with industry, academic, and government partners to implement an expanded access protocol to provide convalescent plasma to patients in need across the country via the national expanded access treatment protocol. The program was developed with funding from the HHS’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), with the Mayo Clinic serving as the lead institution. To date, the program has facilitated the infusion of over 70,000 patients with convalescent plasma.