With demand for convalescent plasma therapy fizzling out as quickly as it saw a spike, at least 1,143 plasma units are still available with blood banks across the state for Covid-19 patients – an unlikely situation until a few months ago.
Blood banks said two factors have led to this – prescriptions from doctors recommending plasma therapy have considerably seen a decrease and awareness has increased among the recovered patients to donate their plasma.
Plasma therapy is extraction of antibodies from a recovered a Covid-19 patient and injection into another patient to fasten the latter’s immune response against coronavirus.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has recommended that plasma must be transfused within three to seven days of a Covid-19 patient developing symptoms and not later than 10 days. But ICMR has also warned that ‘Placid Trial’ – where plasma therapy was used on 464 Covid-19 patients – neither led to a reduction in mortality nor prevented the progression of the disease into its severe form.
Until December 2, the state government had recorded distribution of 17,372 units of plasma by blood banks – maximum between May and September. Since October, the demand has dipped.
While Mumbai blood banks have distributed 3,390 plasma units, Pune has distributed 5,981 units and Thane 3,195 units till December 2.
“Demand for plasma is close to negligible now. Doctors prefer anti-viral drugs like Remdesivir or Favipiravir. We are not coming across complaints of plasma shortage any more,” said J B Mantri, Joint Commissioner (Drugs) in the Food and Drug Administration.
Dr Arun Thorat, in charge of the State Blood Transfusion Council, said that blood banks started showing less interest in plasma collection after the state government capped prices at Rs 5,500 per unit.
In Mumbai, blood banks in Nanavati hospital, LH Hiranandani hospital, KEM hospital, Sion hospital, B Y L Nair hospital, H N hospital and Jagjivan Ram hospital, as well as blood banks like Arpan, Seva Mandir and Navjivan, have collected and sold more than 200 units each.
Plasma donation has received a poor response in Sangli, Akola, Yavatmal and Kolhapur. Of over 18,000 units collected so far, 83 units had to be discarded due to either a blood disorder or because they did not have enough antibodies.