Saving Soldiers’ Lives With Freeze-Dried Plasma

The U.S. military’s special operations units are carrying freeze-dried plasma into the battlefield. The powdered plasma, which helps the blood of severely wounded soldiers to clot, requires no refrigeration and can be used within minutes after mixing with water. The U.S. military used freeze-dried plasma in World War II, but stopped after it was linked to hepatitis outbreaks. Safety testing has since improved, and many militaries, including French, German, Norwegian, and Israeli forces, have been using the products on the battlefield for years. The U.S. now gets its supply from a French company that uses plasma from volunteer donors. This product has a shelf-life of about two years.

Teleflex Inc. is working with the U.S. army to gain U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of the product by 2020. The slow pace has led some in Congress to propose giving the military the ability to bypass the FDA and approve medical devices or drugs to treat troops.

The granulated plasma could also be used in civilian emergencies. Jeremy Cannon, MD, a former trauma surgery chief at San Antonio Military Medical Center, told the Associated Press that when the supply of conventional plasma runs low, particularly because of a mass casualty event, powdered plasma could be crucial.

Source: Associated Press News, November 30, 2017.