Politics in Healthcare: Convalescent Plasma as a Potential Treatment for COVID-19?
On Sunday, August 23rd, the US FDA approved an emergency use authorization for convalescent plasma as a potential treatment for COVID-19.
So what is convalescent plasma therapy? This therapy uses blood from recovered patients of an illness to help current patients fight said illness. The blood cells are removed from the donated blood, leaving behind the plasma and pathogen-specific antibodies - the fundamental key to this process.
Antibodies are a crucial part of our immune system. They bind to antigens on a pathogen and signal to white blood cells to destroy the material. This is important to prevent viruses from entering cells and replicating.
Convalescent plasma therapy has been gaining wide attention in regards to the raging pandemic. While it does hold potential as a treatment, the approval from the FDA has received backlash from the scientific community.
Although President Trump presented convalescent plasma to the media as “safe and highly effective” which was “proven to reduce mortality by 35%” (Cohen and Kai, 2020), researchers are reacting to the statement with scrutiny. The 35% is speculated to reflect the cherry-picking of data from a small sample. Furthermore, randomized controlled trials (the ultimate standard for treatments) have not shown beneficial effects, and many say that evidence is lacking.
Politicization of science is no new aspect - the argument of climate change is a prominent example. However, due to the ongoing and widespread pandemic, this issue has become more apparent.
Check out our podcast Healthcare: Signs and Symptoms after reading this to hear new opinions on this topic.