After reports surfaced that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has put on hold the emergency use authorisation of blood plasma therapy to treat severely ill Covid-19 patients, health experts in India on Friday stressed that the therapy should not be abandoned till the development of an effective vaccine against the virus.
The convalescent plasma therapy has shown encouraging results in India to date.
According to Rahul Bhargava, Director and Head, Haematology at Fortis Memorial Research Institute in Gurugram, so far, data has been equivocal with many confounding factors.
“Only a properly well-randomised controlled trial will help to know which patient at what time/duration of disease and the extent of disease will get benefitted. In the past also, for various diseases, plasma therapy has been utilised with great success and failure,” Bhargava told IANS.
What is required is to know the antibody strength of the donor to see the beneficial effect.
“It should not be abandoned until we have a vaccine or any other option to treat sick patients. We should follow the policy of let’s do no harm,” he added.
According to several studies, plasma donated by people who’ve survived Covid-19 has high levels of antibodies and is considered safe.
The convalescent plasma therapy has gained much traction in several countries, including in India, where several lives have been saved with the therapy.
Dr Satya Prakash Yadav, Head of Pediatric Hematology, Medanta Hospital in Gurugram told IANS: “The use of convalescent plasma collected from previously infected individuals to passively-transfer antibodies in order to protect or treat humans dates back almost 100 years.”
According to him, multiple published and unpublished studies have now reported on the use of convalescent plasma to treat severely or critically ill Covid-19 patients, without unexpected or serious adverse effects.
“Many patients improved clinically and cleared the virus. However, the role of the convalescent plasma treatment in these patients is unclear because all patients received at least one additional therapy, including antivirals, antibiotics or antifungals and corticosteroids,” he explained.
Yadav stressed that more randomised controlled trials are needed to confirm the benefit of plasma therapy for severe Covid-19 patients.
To assess the safety and efficacy of plasma therapy, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had in April sought participation in the randomised controlled study.
While the ICMR is yet to publish the results, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal recently said that the plasma therapy has shown encouraging results in the recovery of the critically-ill patients.
The Delhi government’s plasma bank administered plasma to 710 Covid-19 patients (as of August 11), and over 900 people who recovered from the disease have come forward to donate their plasma.
Congress Legislator H. D. Ranganath from the Kunigal Assembly segment in Karnataka’s Tumakuru district donated his plasma to Covid patients at a private hospital in Bengaluru this week.
Union Minister of State for Defence and AYUSH Shripad Naik was administered plasma therapy and put on high-flow nasal oxygen as part of the treatment for coronavirus.