Expert: COVID-19 Plasma Authorization 'Just Theatrics'

President Donald Trump announced emergency authorization Sunday to treat COVID-19 patients with convalescent plasma in a move he billed as "a breakthrough," though some are less optimistic.

In short, the blood plasma is taken from patients who have recovered from the coronavirus is rich in antibodies, leading to the belief it may provide benefits to those actively fighting the disease.

"So somebody prior had COVID-19 and that’s been documented, we can take plasma from them and give it to someone with an active infection, and the hope is the immunity would be transferred," said Dr. David Agus, CBS News Medical Contributor and Professor of Medicine and Engineering at the University of Southern California.

Is this going to change what we do? "Not really," Dr. Agus told KCBS Radio’s "Ask An Expert" Monday.

"We’re looking for people with antibodies to COVID-19," Dr. Agus explained. "We’re not testing for what we call ‘neutralizing antibodies.’ Do they have the right antibodies to transfer?"

If they don’t, Dr. Agus said the results "can be mediocre."

President Donald Trump announces that the Food and Drug Administration is issuing an emergency authorization for blood plasma as a coronavirus treatment during a press conference in James S. Brady Briefing Room at the White House on August 23, 2020.
Pete Marovich/Getty Images

Many top infectious disease experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, are cautioning the championing of this method. Even some within the Food and Drug Administration are questioning the science.

"COVID-19 convalescent plasma should not be considered a new standard of care for the treatment of patients with COVID-19," Denise Hilton, chief FDA scientist, said in a letter describing the emergency authorization. "Additional data will be forthcoming from other analyses and ongoing, well-controlled clinical trials in the coming months."

The president reportedly wanted to share the news himself in an effort to gain momentum heading into the Republican National Convention.

"The theatrics (Sunday) were really just that, theatrics," Dr. Agus added. "It’s not changing the needle."

On Saturday, President Trump accused the FDA of delaying coronavirus treatments to hurt his reelection bid without evidence.