“The straw that broke the camel’s back was two very large cohort trials,” she says. The RECOVERY Trial in the United Kingdom had studied more than 10,000 volunteers and found no benefit. Another one called CONCOR-1, run by Canadians, had studied nearly 1,000 patients. It, too, stopped recruiting new patients because doing so would have been futile.
But those studies focused on people sick enough to be in the hospital. Dr. Arturo Casadevall at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health is one of the prime advocates for convalescent plasma. He says he thinks the treatment needs to be done sooner, in the outpatient setting.
“From the very beginning here at Hopkins we set out to do outpatient trials,” he says. “The trials were set up in March [of 2020], however it took many months to get the money to do it.” With taxpayer money nowhere to be found, the study ultimately went forward with funding from the billionaire Michael Bloomberg, Casadevall says.
A year later, the study at Hopkins still doesn’t have results. And it’s not just a question of funding. The entire U.S. medical research system isn’t set up to do what’s needed to identify new treatments during a pandemic.