20 January 2021

Researchers have halted a second study of convalescent plasma treatment for patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19 after finding no benefit, it has been announced.

The decision follows the suspension of another study last week which was testing the benefits of convalescent plasma for patients with COVID-19 in intensive care. It means the treatment will no longer be offered to any patients treated in hospital for COVID-19.

Researchers had intended to continue testing the treatment as part of the RECOVERY trial, which is examining treatments for patients newly admitted to hospital with the virus.

But an assessment last week which looked at 1,873 deaths among 10,406 patients found that the proportion of patients with COVID-19 who died at 28 days was the same whether they were treated with convalescent plasma or usual care (18%).

The treatment had seemed promising after initial trials in China and huge efforts have gone into recruiting patients who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate plasma. The UK research team say they will continue to analyse their data to see if there are sub-groups who have gained benefits.

Researcher Professor Martin Landray, from Oxford University, said: “There has been substantial international interest in the role of convalescent plasma as a possible treatment for patients hospitalised with COVID-19. The results announced today are preliminary and follow-up of patients is ongoing.”

A statement from NHS Blood and Transplant, which has been recruiting donors, said it was “incredibly disappointed” at the news.

The organisation said it would be suspending plasma donation for a week and will cease booking new appointments. As well as providing plasma, the collection programme has yielded data about the duration of the antibody response to COVID-19, with some donors being able to return repeatedly to give plasma.

The statement added: “The results from RECOVERY will be hugely disappointing to the tens of thousands of people who have given their time and donations - many of them following severe illness or bereavement – and the hundreds of colleagues who have worked incredibly hard over many months.

“People have travelled many miles to donate, taken time away from work, and overcome fears about coming back into a hospital environment. We cannot thank them enough for all they have done.

“We can be incredibly proud of what our colleagues have achieved. NHS Blood and Transplant has helped deliver the world’s largest randomised control trial of convalescent plasma not just for the treatment of COVID-19, but for any viral infection. A key scientific question has been answered. The trial has been very successful in providing a real answer overall. We are waiting for final analysis into all subgroups to conclude.”

NHS Blood and Transplant is now exploring how they can repurpose the newly expanded donation network, to help collect blood products that are in short supply or will be increasingly needed in the future.


RECOVERY Trial investigators: https://www.recoverytrial.net/news/statement-from-the-recovery-trial-chief-investigators-15-january-2021-recovery-trial-closes-recruitment-to-convalescent-plasma-treatment-for-patients-hospitalised-with-covid-19

NHS Blood and Transplant: https://www.nhsbt.nhs.uk/news/recovery-trial-update/

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