As the months tick down before the November election, President Donald Trump is seemingly under increasing pressure to find vaccines and treatments for COVID-19.
He has touted several unproved drugs as being potentially beneficial and, in recent weeks, has talked up convalescent blood plasma donated from patients who have recovered from COVID-19 by using their antibody-rich blood to help those still struggling to fight it off.
The idea in theory is sound, but trials to assess whether these donations actually help some of the sickest patients have not been conducted thoroughly enough for government scientists, including National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., and COVID-19 response leader Anthony Fauci, M.D., who say more data are needed to assess its worth.
Both want to see more data and better conducted trials and have warned against speeding up its use in the real world. The FDA had been prepping an emergency use authorization (also known as an EUA) for the treatment, but is now holding fire.
In a statement, the FDA said: “Although promising, convalescent plasma has not yet been shown to be safe and effective as a treatment for COVID-19. Therefore, it is important to study the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 convalescent plasma in clinical trials.”
Trump, speaking at a press conference Wednesday and having already been hit with blowback over his endorsement of other unapproved therapies, said: “You have lot of people over there [the FDA] that don't want to rush things. They want to do it after Nov. 3,” implying the reason was political and aimed at denting his reelection chances.
“I’ve heard fantastic things about convalescent plasma,” Trump told reporters. “And people are dying. And we should have it approved if it's good, and I'm hearing it's good.”
Trump added he was “going to check on [why the EUA was delayed]” after the conference.