Coronavirus | Health Ministry does a U-turn on plasma therapy

Health Ministry says there is not enough evidence to claim plasma therapy can be used for treatment of COVID-19.

April 28, 2020 05:20 pm | Updated December 03, 2021 06:30 am IST - New Delhi

File photo used for representational purpose.

File photo used for representational purpose.

Plasma therapy is not an approved treatment for COVID-19 and is only one of the several therapies which is being explored currently, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday, adding that the therapy is still at an experimental stage and the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) is currently studying its efficacy.

“ICMR has not given any clearance for its use as a prescribed treatment for COVID-19 and the misuse can have fatal outcome for the patients,” added the Ministry.

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The Health Ministry statement comes days after the Drug Controller-General of India gave its go-ahead to a proposal by the ICMR for the clinical trial of convalescent plasma therapy in COVID-19 patients as per the protocol developed by ICMR.

The regulator had said the ICMR had submitted a list of institutes, which have shown an interest in the trial, to the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation and they may do so in consultation with the health research body.

At the daily press briefing, Health Ministry Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal said currently there are no approved therapies for COVID-19 and there is not enough evidence to claim that plasma therapy can be used for treatment of the disease. ICMR has launched a national-level study to study efficacy of plasma therapy in treatment of COVID-19.

“Till the ICMR concludes its study and a robust scientific proof is available, plasma therapy should be used only for research or trial purpose. If plasma therapy is not used in proper manner under proper guidelines, then it can also cause life threatening complications,” he cautioned.

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Plasma treatment is done by taking blood plasma from a cured COVID-19 patient to treat positive cases to effectively strengthen the immune system. The Ministry had last week asked the Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS) to contact recovered COVID-19 patients to come forward for blood donation, from which convalescent plasma could be collected and used for transfusion to the COVID-19 affected patients for their early recovery.

“The IRCS may like to take up this at the earliest so that the blood collected from the recovered patients could be used for transfusion for the benefit of corona patients,’’ the Ministry said. 

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Several States across India too have been using and advocating for the therapy with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Tuesday directing officials to encourage use of plasma therapy for the treatment of infected people and to increase testing capacity.

As many as 32 people who successfully recovered from COVID-19 in Telangana have come forward to donate their plasma for treatment of other patients in the State, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi said.

In his letter to Telangana Health Minister Etela Rajender, Mr. Owaisi furnished the details of the recovered patients and expressed hope that their contribution would go a long way in the government’s efforts to treat coronavirus patients.

Also read | Will donate blood plasma again, says doctor cured of COVID-19

Delhi, Gujarat and Maharashtra, among other States, have started clinical trials for the plasma-based treatment.

In 2014 convalescent plasma, collected from patients who had recovered from Ebola virus disease, was recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as an empirical treatment during the outbreak. During the H1N1 virus outbreak of 2009 and SARS epidemic of 2003, plasma therapy was used to treat patients.

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