A day after the ICMR director general said the use of convalescent plasma therapy for Covid-19 patients may be deleted from national guidelines, Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain said the trial therapy in the city “proved beneficial for 2,000 people”.
Delhi was the first in the country to set up a plasma bank.
“ICMR and AIIMS were studying plasma therapy and it seems like they couldn’t get a breakthrough. Delhi government has done a lot of work on this and we took permission for trial runs, in any case. More than 2,000 people have been administered plasma in Delhi. I myself survived because of plasma therapy,” said Jain, who contracted Covid in June and was administered plasma therapy at Max Hospital.
Dr S K Sarin, chief of the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences where Delhi’s plasma bank was set up, said the decision regarding giving plasma therapy should depend on the individual clinician and the hospital.
“It was approved as an off-label therapy. It is being used in most of the US and other countries since the FDA has also given an approval as an experimental therapy. We should not say that it is being recommended as a treatment, but based on the experience and decision of the physician, plasma therapy remains as an experimental therapy for mild and moderate covid-19 patients. It is certainly not advised to severe Covid-19 patients. The other benefit of giving plasma as a therapy is that it reduces the cytokine storm. Therefore, one should wait for a little more time to say that it is not useful. More studies are required before one can completely eliminate it,” said Dr Sarin.
“So, if you have no other antiviral drug, the only treatment that still has antiviral impact is the plasma therapy by which the viral load decreases,” he added.
According to experts, the therapy is still in the experimental phase, like several other drugs like remdevisir, HCQ and tocilizumab. “A recent solidarity trial by WHO on more than 11,000 patients has shown the remdevisir is not useful and it has no mortality benefit. Earlier, HCQ was used widely and then there were guidelines that suggested that it is not useful. This virus has no definite treatment and till the time vaccine is not, we don’t know which treatment is useful or not. Presently, more than 30 countries are using plasma therapy,” said Dr Suresh Kumar, medical director of Lok Nayak hospital. The hospital is a part of the ongoing trial on 400 patients to assess the efficacy of the plasma therapy.
AAP MLA Raghav Chadha, who was part of the team looking after the plasma bank project, said that if the therapy is removed from ICMR’s list, it would be a hurried decision. “To remove convalescent plasma therapy from clinical management protocol based on a single study, that is the ICMR trial, in which even antibody titers of the plasma were not taken into account is a perfunctory act — in a situation where no definitive therapy exists till date… It is a safe therapy which has demonstrated survival benefits including in our own Health Minister’s case,” he said.