Bothwell participates in COVID-19 clinical trial | Free

Nicole Cooke ncooke@sedaliademocrat.com

Bothwell Regional Health Center has joined more than 2,000 other hospitals in a clinical trial using convalescent plasma to treat COVID-19.

According to a Bothwell news release, Bothwell completed its first plasma transfusion for a hospitalized COVID-19 patient on Thursday. Plasma is one of several possible treatments being studied as the global medical community searches for a treatment for COVID-19.

Bothwell Chief Medical Officer Dr. Phillip Fracica told the Democrat on Friday he has been following various studies on coronavirus treatments and found the plasma trial looked promising. About 10 days ago, he was informed by the Community Blood Center, which provides Bothwell’s blood supply, that the Kansas City location was collecting plasma and that it could be available to Bothwell if needed.

Fracica applied to register Bothwell as a participating hospital in the COVID-19 expanded access program led by the Mayo Clinic. According to uscovidplasma.org, more than 2,000 hospitals are participating and so far 4,400 infusions have taken place.

Once accepted, Fracica submitted the characteristics of the patient Bothwell wanted to treat with plasma. Authorization was given to the blood bank, which prepared the convalescent plasma for transfusion.

According to the news release, due to the time-sensitive nature, Community Blood Center coordinated the efforts of the Missouri State Highway Patrol to transport the plasma to Bothwell.

According to the trial’s website, people who recover from COVID-19 do so, at least in part, because their blood contains antibodies, which are capable of fighting the virus that causes the illness. For some other diseases caused by viruses, giving people plasma obtained from those who have recovered from the virus leads to more rapid improvement. 

Many different treatments are being discussed, such as existing medications that could be repurposed to treat COVID-19 or more experimental medications. Fracica said the plasma treatment seems to be one of the more promising options being attempted and it is low risk for the patient.

Blood is taken from a donor who has recovered from COVID-19, then proteins are removed from the blood, Fracica explained. The proteins contain antibodies.

Fracica said convalescent plasma has been used with other viruses such as MERS, a viral respiratory illness first reported in 2012, and Ebola. While he was an intensive care unit doctor in Phoenix, Fracica participated in a trial for West Nile virus sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.

Fracica said more and more hospitals are enrolling in the trial and that all the information he has read is favorable in that people who have received the treatment felt it seemed to have made a difference. However, he noted this is not a randomized clinical trial where some patients receive convalescent plasma and some receive regular plasma.

“There’s no way of knowing for sure the plasma is what helped the person turn the corner because you’re simultaneously doing everything you know at your disposal to help the person,” Fracica said.

“This study, everyone who enrolls has the opportunity to get the convalescent plasma and opportunity to improve,” he added. “The plan is to learn as much as possible — it’s as much about helping people with promising treatment as it is about doing the science and learning how effective this is going to be.”

The trial’s website states initial data available from studies using COVID-19 convalescent plasma for the treatment of individuals with severe or life-threatening disease indicate a single dose showed benefit for some patients, leading to improvement. However, the website also states plasma has not yet been demonstrated to provide clinical benefit in patients affected by this disease.

Fracica noted the story of the clinical trial is twofold: to continue the trial, recovered COVID-19 patients need to continue donating plasma. Visit savealifenow.org to learn more or to inquire about becoming a donor.

In addition to starting the clinical trial, Bothwell medical staff members are studying research papers and obtaining clinical guidelines from larger hospitals like Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. 

“They’ve been very interested in maintaining currency with that type of information and what I’m gratified is that even though we’re a smaller community hospital, we’re able to provide some treatments that are available at some of the largest, most sophisticated hospitals in the country and that’s something important to our medical staff,” Fracica said. “For me, to the extent we can, we’re trying to make sure the community is getting as good of care as they can get at larger hospitals.”


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