Many experts have said effective treatments for the novel coronavirus disease could be months away — but President Donald Trump’s administration is taking steps to prove them wrong.
At a news conference Sunday, Trump announced that his Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had authorized the emergency use of convalescent plasma to treat COVID-19, the Washington Examiner reported.
According to The Hill, Trump hailed the move as a “historic breakthrough” that will “dramatically expand access” to the treatment method, which he said is “safe and very effective.”
“Today’s action will dramatically expand access to this treatment,” Trump said Sunday, according to the Examiner. “Based on the science and the data, the FDA has made the independent determination that the treatment is safe and very effective.”
A “historic breakthrough”
According to the Associated Press, convalescent plasma refers to antibody-rich blood that is drawn from people who have recovered from a disease. It has been used to treat various kinds of infections, and over 70,000 people have already received the treatment for the coronavirus, which Trump’s FDA commissioner, Stephen Hahn, called “promising,” the AP reported.
While the treatment hasn’t been proven effective against COVID-19 in particular, convalescent plasma is considered a safe and time-tested therapy, and an August study from the Mayo Clinic found that 35,000 people who received the plasma for coronavirus may have died at lower rates, according to the AP.
The FDA, for its part, said in a tweet that the treatment’s benefits “outweigh the known and potential risks of the product and that there are no adequate, approved, and available alternative treatments.”
“We determined that it is reasonable to believe that…convalescent plasma may be effective in lessening the severity or shortening the length of COVID-19 illness in some patients,” the FDA added, according to Fox News.
“Life and death”
The announcement met expected pushback, though, with the media opting for a glass-half-empty interpretation that focused on the unproven nature of the treatment. “Scientists express doubts about coronavirus treatment touted as breakthrough by Trump,” read a Washington Post headline.
Democrats have made Trump’s response to the coronavirus one of their major talking points heading toward Nov. 3, repeatedly accusing him at their national convention last week of downplaying the pandemic. Trump and his allies have fired back by accusing his foes of downplaying any potential treatments or good news about the coronavirus in an apparent effort to depress the president’s re-election chances.
Democrats have also accused Trump of rushing unsafe treatments to save his presidency, as Trump reportedly considers expediting a vaccine. But as deaths in the U.S. from COVID-19 top 177,000, according to a tracker from The New York Times, the president has insisted that the pandemic isn’t a political game.
“This has nothing to do with politics,” Trump said at his Sunday presser, according to The Hill. “This has to do with life and death.”