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Max Minute: Benefits Of Convalescent Plasma Therapy To COVID-19 Patients Unclear, Despite FDA's Emergency Use Authorization

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - In a surprise move, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reversed course over the weekend and gave emergency use authorization to an antibody treatment for COVID-19.

It's called convalescent plasma, which is taken from recovered COVID patients.

In Monday's Max Minute, CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez explains what the treatment entails and why many experts are unsure about its safety and efficacy.


Plasma is the liquid part of blood. The hope with convalescent plasma is that infusions of antibody-rich plasma can be injected into sick patients, binding or neutralizing the coronavirus so the patients can recover.

It's been given to more than 70,000 COVID-19 patients, with mixed results.

MORE: FDA Issues Emergency Authorization For Convalescent Plasma To Be Used As Treatment For COVID-19

Just last week, the FDA declined to issue authorization. Renowned scientists, such as Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institute of Health, said there just wasn't enough evidence to warrant it.

The new emergency use authorization claims convalescent plasma reduced mortality by 35 percent. It appears to be based on a 35,000 patient trial from the Mayo Clinic. However, many public health experts said that was not a placebo controlled double-blind study and patients may have been getting a number of other medications that could account for the results.

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In any case, the benefit was only if the plasma was given within three days of the onset of symptoms.

It's unclear whether the emergency use authorization will result in a meaningful expansion in access to convalescent plasma therapy.

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Tens of thousands of COVID-19 patients have already received the treatment through the FDA's expanded access program, and the supply is limited to the number of recovered patients who donate plasma.

Dr. Gomez said the plasma may help some patients recover, but it is not a breakthrough therapy.

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