Tacoma-based MultiCare Health System, including hospitals in Auburn and Covington, has another treatment option for patients hospitalized with COVID-19.
The Expanded Access Program for Convalescent Plasma, led by the Mayo Clinic, is for COVID-19 patients who have or are at risk of severe or life-threatening disease, according to a MultiCare news release on Monday. Patients who choose this treatment get a transfusion of plasma donated by people who have recovered from COVID-19, or “convalescents,” and have since tested negative. The donor plasma contains antibodies that can attack the virus, and early studies have shown that it may help patients recover faster.
The first three MultiCare patients to get donor plasma were treated April 18.
“We are treating those who are faring the worst first,” said Dr. Scott Meehan Jr., the program’s primary investigator for MultiCare’s Puget Sound region hospitals. “So far, all MultiCare patients who have received this treatment have had advanced illness and been on a ventilator. One patient who received his first treatment on Saturday has been on a ventilator for 20 days.”
MultiCare’s Institute for Research and Innovation is also treating some COVID-19 patients through its clinical trial of the antiviral drug Remdesivir. That trial should yield conclusive results by the end of this month or early May, MultiCare has said.
Meehan, a pulmonary disease specialist, said the plasma option is promising.
“One of the ways that the body can fight viruses is by developing antibodies that can destroy the invading microorganism,” he said. “These antibodies are present in the blood, specifically in the plasma of the blood. This has worked in previous outbreaks of respiratory diseases like influenza.”
Providers need more plasma to offer this treatment to more patients. MultiCare encourages eligible people who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate plasma at Cascade Regional Blood Services, which has locations in Federal Way, Tacoma and Puyallup or Vitalant, with locations in Spokane. Donations to Cascade Regional Blood Services will be sent to MultiCare’s Puget Sound region hospitals, while donations to Vitalant will be directed to its patients in the Inland Northwest.
Jeannie Nielson, the program manager for Patient Blood Management at MultiCare, who helped organize the health system’s involvement in the expanded access program, stated, “We have 13 patients waiting for plasma, but they are very sick.”
The study is also open to patients with severe disease (as opposed to life-threatening). Each plasma donation is divided to treat two to four patients. Right now, MultiCare is looking for donors of all blood types, including more rare blood types, AB and B.
According to Cascade Regional Blood Services, eligible donors must:
* Have had their COVID-19 diagnosis confirmed by a laboratory test.
* Provide documentation of their testing, either a physician note or a lab report.
* Be fully recovered and symptom-free at least 28 days before they donate.
* Meet all other blood donor requirements.
“We know the generosity of our communities runs deep. We are asking people who have suffered through this disease to help others,” said Bill Robertson, President and CEO of MultiCare. “We are hopeful that with enough donations of this plasma, we will be able to save the lives of people who continue to battle against this devastating virus.”
To learn more about the federally funded convalescent plasma trial being led by Mayo Clinic, visit uscovidplasma.org. More information on MultiCare and COVID-19 resources can be found at multicare.org.