Bioethicists and policy experts have warned against overpromising on chloroquine, which is also used against lupus and arthritis, because it’s not yet clear how effective it is against the coronavirus and its side effects could be serious.
The second trial could begin as early as this week to test infusing a serum from recovered Covid-19 patients into current patients to boost their immunity to the virus, Cuomo said.
“It’s only a trial, it’s a trial for people who are in serious condition, but the New York State Department of Health has been working on this with some of New York’s best health care agencies,” Cuomo said at a morning news conference. “We think it shows promise, and we’re going to be starting that this week.”
State health officials said they will begin recruiting a pool of recovered patients to donate their plasma, which contains antibodies against the coronavirus, for the serum in the coming days.
New York officials stressed that the drug therapy and serum trials are not “clinical therapies” and are unlikely to cure Covid-19 patients. But, they said, the trials could shorten the duration of incubation, lower viral loads and have other, more nuanced benefits.
The plasma technique, first used in the 1890s, is still occasionally employed in critical situations — Chinese scientists have used it in the current pandemic as well. But it has had a mixed record: In a trial using plasma against the Ebola virus, 31 percent of participants died, compared to 38 percent who died while receiving only supportive care, with researchers reporting that the technique “was not associated with a significant improvement in survival.”
The FDA is “working expeditiously to facilitate the development and availability of convalescent plasma as a potential treatment option for COVID-19 to those patients who are in greatest need,” spokesperson Michael Felberbaum said.
Arthur Allen contributed to this report.