US President Donald Trump on Thursday called on US health regulators to expedite potential therapies aimed at treating COVID-19 amid the fast-spreading coronavirus outbreak, saying it could lead to a breakthrough while a vaccine is still under development. Trump, speaking at a news conference, pointed to efforts on Gilead Sciences Inc’s experimental antiviral drug Remdesivir and the generic antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine, saying he had called on the US Food and Drug Administration to streamline its regulatory approval process. It comes as coronavirus has infected more than 10,000 Americans.
Speaking at the White House, Dr Hahn said: “There’s a cross-agency effort about something called convalescent plasma.
“This is a pretty exciting area and again this is something that we have given assistance to other countries with as this crisis has developed. The FDA has been working for some time on this.
“If you’ve been exposed to coronavirus and you’re better and you don’t have the virus in your blood.
“We could collect the blood, this is a possible treatment, not a proven treatment, and concentrate that.
“Once it’s virus-free, we will be able to give that to other patients and the immune response could potentially provide a benefit to patients.
“It’s another thing that we are looking at over the next couple of weeks we will have more information.”
Trials on potential coronavirus therapies are already in the works, and it was unclear how Trump’s call for faster experimental testing process could further expedite an effective treatment.
“It could be a game-changer or maybe not,” Trump told reporters.
It comes as General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co said on Wednesday they were in talks with White House officials about how they could support the production of medical equipment like ventilators that may be needed to combat the coronavirus outbreak.
GM Chief Executive Mary Barra spoke to White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow about the issue after the Detroit automaker announced it will suspend North American production through March 30. Kudlow told Fox News on Wednesday that he had spoken to one automaker looking at producing ventilators.
GM spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan said the automaker “is working to help find solutions for the nation during this difficult time and has offered to help, and we are already studying how we can potentially support the production of medical equipment like ventilators.”
Ford said on Wednesday it “stands ready to help the administration in any way we can, including the possibility of producing ventilators and other equipment. We have had preliminary discussions with the U.S. government and are looking into the feasibility.”
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Kudlow praised the idea of autoworkers producing medical equipment when plans were idled. “That’s the kind of can-do spirit that we are hearing and seeing,” Kudlow said.
GM and Ford could face significant hurdles before it could build a complex piece of medical equipment like a ventilator and it is unclear how long it would take to do so, however.
Countries around the world have raised concerns about potential shortages of the ventilators needed to treat critically ill patients suffering from coronavirus. Running in the thousands of dollars per unit, ventilators are used to help people with respiratory difficulties to breathe.
Earlier this week, Britain asked manufacturers including Ford, Honda and Rolls Royce to help make health equipment including ventilators and said it will look at using hotels as hospitals.
During World War Two, GM, Ford and other automakers retooled auto plants to build tanks, planes and other military equipment and weapons, earning Detroit the nickname the “Arsenal of Democracy.”
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