Vanderbilt to lead $34M convalescent plasma trial as FDA grants emergency use authorization

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Food and Drug Administration’s issuing of an emergency use authorization for convalescent plasma is one more way the medical field is hoping to kick COVID-19.

“We are looking to get our kids back to school, and go to the park again, and do all the things we love to do. And, that’s the end goal everyone is searching for,” said Dr. Allison Wheeler, an assistant professor at Vanderbilt University, who specializes in plasma collection.

She explained the FDA’s authorization in more detail. “What it really said was, not that this is definitely going to work for people, rather, what they think is the potential benefits outweigh the potential risks of this treatment.”

More than 70,000 patients have been treated with the blood plasma, rich in antibodies, taken from people who have recovered from the coronavirus, according to the FDA. And while no randomized clinical trial has shown a desired result, based on the scientific evidence available, the FDA concluded this product may be effective in treating COVID-19.

“The delay that people have seen in finding convalescent plasma that matches, some of that may go away,” Wheeler said, “as people start to say to themselves, ‘hey, I had COVID and now the government has really said this is helpful. Maybe I should go and donate.'”

Dr. Wheeler admits, there are still many unknowns when it comes to how effective convalescent plasma is or how donors may be affected.

What if someone donates their plasma, and essentially antibodies, are they giving up their protection to COVID- 19?

“To be completely honest, and to be completely scientific, while we think the answer is no, no one has ever specifically asked that question clinically and tried to get that answer that I’m aware of,” said Dr. Wheeler.

In an effort to answer these questions, trials are beginning across the county, including in Nashville.

Vanderbilt was awarded $34 million to lead a nationwide trial. The randomized, controlled trial will test whether infusions of plasma can help hospitalized patients fight the virus.

Doctors are looking for 300 people who have recovered from the virus to donate their plasma as well as 1,000 COVID-19 positive patients willing to receive the plasma infusion. 

“500 of whom will receive convalescent plasma, 500 of whom will receive a placebo. We’ll collect nitty gritty data on those patients to be able to compare those two groups and really learn more about how convalescent plasma can help some people with COVID-19,” Dr. Wheeler explained.

To find out more about the trial, or to signup, visit the links click here or take their survey here.

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