Experimental Covid-19 treatment using transferred plasma given green light by Medsafe

Two medical trials given Medsafe approval to proceed are a first for Covid-19 research in New Zealand.

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The treatment involved those infected with coronavirus receiving blood plasma from people who have recovered. Source: 1 NEWS

The trials will investigate the benefits of convalescent plasma therapy on a range of local patients hospitalised with Covid-19.

Convalescent plasma treatment involves transfusing plasma from recovered Covid patients to those who are unwell.

Convalescent plasma therapy is widely practised in hospitals worldwide, especially in the United States.

But the lead researcher in one of the New Zealand trials says there still is a lack of hard data on the benefits for Covid-19.

"Although the idea is great, the evidence to prove that it works is still not there," says Dr Colin McArthur, an intensive care specialist and researcher at Auckland City Hospital.

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The NZ Blood Service already has a small supply of convalescent plasma that has been collected for use in the event of a second wave of Covid-19.

The Blood Service has Medsafe authority to issue the convalescent plasma to intensive care specialists, who request it for transfusion into ICU patients who meet the medical criteria.

But Medsafe's approval yesterday of the two clinical trials means Covid patients in ICU and in isolation on general hospital wards will be treated with convalescent plasma if they meet medical criteria.

This will enable specialist intensive care researchers to assess the benefits and whether the benefits outweigh the risks.

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"Convalescent plasma is an important potential therapy that we can use for patients with Covid-19," Dr McArthur says. 

"It gives [the patients] the possibility of additional immune response to fight the virus."

Auckland father-of-three Jean-Pierre van Heerden donated his plasma for convalescent use in June after recovering from a long and difficult battle with Covid-19.

Mr van Heerden says he would have been open to participating in one of the trials if they had been operating while he was in hospital.

"Anything that has the possibility of helping you turn a corner or helping you to recover quicker, I would have made a very quick decision and said 'yes,'" he says.

Dr McArthur says now the trials have Medsafe approval, hospitalised Covid-19 patients who comply could be receiving convalescent plasma transfusions in the next few days.