Florida hospital expanding hopeful plasma therapy treatment for coronavirus
Cleveland Clinic Florida is expanding access to a plasma-therapy program for COVID-19 patients. The experimental treatment has shown strong, but limited results so far locally.
More people will be able to have access to the treatment now that Cleveland Clinic Florida has joined a Mayo Clinic treatment program, Cleveland Clinic officials said. Previously, local hospital officials needed to get each patient's case approved individually instead of having more open access to the treatment.
“We have seen patients get better. It’s just difficult to tease out how much is related to plasma,” Dr. Carla McWilliams, chief of infectious diseases for Cleveland Clinic Florida-Weston, said. “I want to believe it works.”
Patients who have received it "improved dramatically within a couple days," McWilliams said.
Cleveland Clinic Florida is calling on people who have recovered from the novel coronavirus to donate plasma, red blood cells, to help increase access to this therapy as it continues under study.
“It requires altruism from the general population to truly be a part of the solution,” said Dr. Fernando Petry, chief medical officer of Cleveland Clinic Martin Health. “Only through that generosity will we have enough plasma to treat patients.”
Two patients at Cleveland Clinic Martin North Hospital in Stuart so far have received the treatment, Petry said.
“It seems to be a very promising therapy,” Petry said, “although there still needs to be some study behind it.”
Potential donors first must meet a list of requirements.
On the Treasure Coast, Plasma is collected through OneBlood, a not-for-profit, which asks for people to: have a prior diagnosis of COVID-19, documented by a lab approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; be symptom-freefor at least 14 days with a negative COVID-19 test or to be sympton-free for at least 28 days.
Donors should complete an online registration process at www.oneblood.org/COVID-19.
Cleveland Clinic Florida is keeping track of people who have tested positive at one of its drive-thru sites, and is following up with them to see if they are willing to donate plasma.
Between Cleveland Clinic's testing sites at its hospitals in Stuart and Port St. Lucie, more than 200 people have been diagnosed with the coronavirus and are on a list to be contacted, Petry said.
Additional plasma collections and trials with patients who are moderately to severely ill, typically someone who needs hospitalization, are expected to help Cleveland Clinic Florida and the Mayo Clinic have a better understanding of the value of the treatment, McWilliams said.
Despite Florida beginning to open up for business and recreation this week as COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to generally decline, Petry and McWilliams emphasized the importance of continuing to find quality therapies.
It’s still possible to have a second spike in coronavirus cases, McWilliams said, especially since there is not yet a vaccine.
“We understand that cases may not be very high right now, but we will continue to see cases throughout the summer,” McWilliams said. “We still need to do everything we can.”
Joshua Solomon is a watchdog and government reporter covering Martin County. You can reach him at 772-692-8935 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Support our local journalism.
This story originally published to tcpalm.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the USA TODAY Network - Florida.