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How we’re supporting COVID-19 convalescent plasma trials
NHS Blood and Transplant is investigating the effectiveness of treating coronavirus patients with plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19. Heather Pinches, Head of the Clinical Trials Service at NHS Digital, explains how we’re helping with this effort.
30 June 2020
Around the world, researchers are racing to find an effective treatment for coronavirus (COVID-19). A range of potential treatments have been suggested, including convalescent plasma therapy.
Convalescent plasma is the liquid part of blood taken from people who have recovered from COVID-19, which may contain antibodies that prevent the coronavirus from entering and infecting cells in the body.
There’s evidence to suggest that transfusing COVID-19 patients with convalescent plasma could improve their recovery time and increase their chance of survival. NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) are involved in two clinical trials – REMAP-CAP and RECOVERY – to establish if treatment with convalescent plasma does benefit patients and if so, at what point in their illness they should be treated.
We had to carefully consider what was the right thing to do, knowing not everyone would want their data used in this way but also recognising the potentially enormous benefit this treatment could bring to COVID-19 patients.
We send them updated data weekly and have identified over 112,000 potential donors so far.
We’re doing this by linking demographic data we hold with COVID-19 test data, hospital admissions and intensive care data to identify thousands of patients that have recovered from COVID-19 who may be suitable donors. We’re making sure to remove details of anyone who has opted-out of sharing their data and others who would not be able to donate, for example those who are shielding.
We’re sharing this linked dataset with NHSBT, who are using it to contact potential donors directly. We send them updated data weekly and have identified over 112,000 potential donors so far. As a result, 180 patients have been randomised in the convalescent plasma segments of the RECOVERY and REMAP-CAP clinical trials, and we are proud to be playing a small part in contributing towards finding an effective treatment for patients who are severely ill with COVID-19. Its been a great team effort to make this happen.
At NHS Digital we have recognised the value of routinely collected NHS data to support clinical trials such as these. We are working in partnership with the University of Oxford Big Data Institute, IBM and Microsoft to create the NHS DigiTrials health data research hub to develop a range of data services specifically for clinical trials.