The NHS has said the use of blood plasma in treating COVID-19 patients is “not conclusive” – despite Donald Trump giving emergency authorisation for the “powerful therapy” in the US.
The president on Sunday announced the move to make it easier for some patients to obtain convalescent plasma, a treatment for which trials are still continuing.
Mr Trump hailed the “truly historic announcement” as a “major therapeutic breakthrough” in the battle against coronavirus.
The use of convalescent plasma involves taking blood plasma from patients who have recovered from COVID-19 – and is therefore rich in antibodies – and transfusing it to those fighting the disease.
It is a commonly-trialled treatment in the outbreak of new diseases, but the NHS said it was still unclear whether it worked with coronavirus patients.
“NHS Blood and Transplant is already collaborating with the wider NHS on world-leading treatment trials of convalescent plasma,” a spokesperson said.
“The observational studies coming from America are promising and support the need for people to continue to donate convalescent plasma in England. However, they are not conclusive.
“Randomised control trials are the gold standard for determining the effectiveness of a new treatment.
“The UK is leading the world in setting up randomised controlled trials for COVID-19 convalescent plasma.”
The NHS is urging people who have recovered from COVID-19 to offer to donate convalescent plasma.
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Mr Trump’s announcement of emergency authorisation is not the same as full approval by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The FDA’s chief scientist, Denise Hinton, warned: “COVID-19 convalescent plasma should not be considered a new standard of care for the treatment of patients with COVID-19.
“Additional data will be forthcoming from other analyses and ongoing, well-controlled clinical trials in the coming months.”
Some health experts were sceptical about the timing of Mr Trump’s announcement, which came on the eve of the Republican National Convention.
The convention is a key moment in the president’s bid to remain in the White House for another four years.
It will see Mr Trump formally nominated as the Republican Party’s candidate for November’s presidential election.
The Financial Times reported on Monday that Mr Trump is considering fast-tracking approval of a possible Oxford University coronavirus vaccine so it can be used before the election.