Aug 25, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Navarro says need for randomized trial on plasma is a "crazy talking point"

White House economic adviser Peter Navarro said on Tuesday that recommendations from health experts that convalescent plasma undergo a randomized trial as a COVID-19 treatment before receiving an emergency authorization are a "crazy talking point."

Why it matters: Top federal health officials urged the FDA last week to hold off on issuing an emergency use authorization for the safe, but unproven treatment, but the agency went ahead with it on Sunday amid pressure from Navarro and Trump.

  • The National Institutes of Health's Francis Collins, Anthony Fauci and H. Clifford Lane were among the scientists who sought to intervene to stop the FDA from immediately authorizing plasma due to the absence of strong data about its effectiveness.
  • “The three of us are pretty aligned on the importance of robust data through randomized control trials, and that a pandemic does not change that,” Lane told the New York Times.

Yes, but: The FDA said in a statement that the authorization "is not intended to replace randomized clinical trials and facilitating the enrollment of patients into any of the ongoing randomized clinical trials is critically important for the definitive demonstration of safety and efficacy of COVID-19 convalescent plasma."

The big picture: The FDA authorization came one day after President Trump accused the administration of slow-walking the development of vaccines and therapeutics for political purposes. Earlier in the week, Navarro accused health officials of being part of the "deep state" and urged them to get on "Trump time."

What they're saying: "On the issue of not being able to do randomized trials, what is the calculus here? Are we going to wait to use something that can save thousands of lives just so we can have a study that tells us what we already know?" Navarro told MSNBC.

  • "The odds of this being able to hurt you are close to zero, so it's safe. The odds of it being able to help you are close to 100%," Navarro claimed.
  • Reality check: The odds of plasma being able to help COVID-19 patients are not "close to 100%."

The other side: Speaker Nancy Pelosi told MSNBC after Navarro's appearance that the Trump administration is "politicizing science." She warned of the need to watch out for the politicization of the vaccine process because the Trump administration has "already indicated that they will overstate the safety and the efficacy of a drug."

Go deeper: FDA commissioner says criticism of his plasma comments was justified

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