The US Food and Drug Administration has issued emergency use authorizations for two blood purification devices that may help treat coronavirus patients.
The devices perform “extracorporeal blood purification” –��� essentially taking blood from a patient’s body, removing harmful inflammatory substances and then returning it.
Elevated levels of these substances – called cytokines – may cause problems with the immune system, according to the FDA.
“The proteins that are removed are typically elevated during infections and can be associated with a ‘cytokine storm’ that occurs in some COVID-19 patients, leading to severe inflammation, rapidly progressive shock, respiratory failure, organ failure and death,” the FDA said in a statement Friday.
Use of the devices is limited to patients 18 years or older, with confirmed Covid-19, who have been admitted to the intensive care unit with confirmed or imminent respiratory failure.
But the devices comes with risks: Among other side effects, the FDA says that heart problems, blood loss, infection and allergic reactions are all possible.
Still, in letters authorizing the devices, the FDA said they may help some patients during the coronavirus pandemic.
The known and potential benefits of the systems, according to the FDA’s authorization letters, outweighed the known and potential risks.
One of the systems green-lit by the agency is made by CytoSorbents, and the other is from Terumo BCT and Marker Therapeutics AG.
How helpful the devices might be, though, remains unclear, and there is currently no FDA-approved treatment for COVID-19.