The Plasma therapy was touted as a life-saver in the fight against Covid-19, but recent studies say that it is an ineffective treatment. Even so, social media keeps the legend alive.
Since many Hospitals established its plasma banks, requests have poured in ceaselessly. Many come from people whose family members have been stricken with severe cases of Covid. Many requests come in from across state borders as well.
“When someone close to you is about to die, you will take whatever form of hope you can find,” says Jai Prakash, 44, who obtained plasma for his mother last month at Care Hospitals in Hyderabad. The plasma, donated by those who have recovered from Covid, and which is therefore theoretically rich in anti-Covid antibodies, did not save his mother’s life.
She developed a transfusion-related acute lung injury, possibly an adverse reaction to the plasma transfusions. The complications ultimately claimed her life.
Many examples of adverse reactions and the inability of plasma treatment to reduce Covid mortality have been recorded in the ICMR’s (Indian Council of Medical Research’s) PLACID trial too. This is one of the largest trials of convalescent plasma therapy in the country, conducted across 39 public and private hospitals across India between April 22 and July 14 to understand the effectiveness of convalescent plasma therapy in treating Covid-19. A total of 464 participants, all with moderate cases of the disease, were enrolled in the study.
The results have been peer-reviewed, and are soon to be published in the British Medical Journal. As a result, the ICMR has announced the possibility of removing convalescent plasma therapy as one of the treatments recommended in India’s clinical management guidelines for Covid-19. Nonetheless, requests for plasma donations continue to pour in. The summer months saw a particularly mad scramble for plasma, with websites, apps and helplines being launched to help families find donors.
When the ICMR study was announced, the excitement was such that ninety nine institutes signed up for it within a week’s time. Doctors say that the public interest in plasma treatment is largely a result of social media publicity and rumours. “Patients and their families must trust doctors. Every case of Covid-19 is different, and treatment is devised accordingly,” says Dr. PC Reddy, former director of NIMS Hospital in Hyderabad.
However, most of that initial enthusiasm and hope seems to have been in vain. ‘The PLACID trial results indicate that there was no difference in 28-day mortality or progression to severe disease among moderately ill Covid-19 patients treated with plasma along with the best standard of care compared to the best standard of care alone,’ the ICMR study noted.
The study also observed questionable practices with regards to obtaining plasma such as social media calls and the sale of plasma on the black market at exorbitant prices. However, even as the government mulls pulling back on plasma treatment, most doctors don’t consider it to be a huge setback to the treatment protocol in the country.
Drugs such as Remdesivir and HCQ (Hydroxychloroquine) are much more in use today than plasma. Additionally, harvesting plasma, plasma storage and running it through NAB machines to make it safe for use are all resource-intensive processes, and only a limited number of institutes in the country have the capacity to conduct this in a quality-assured manner.
The larger concern remains whether the government will also remove Remdesivir and HCQ from the guidelines after the WHO solidarity trials registered them to be ineffective in the reduction of Covid mortality. With many hospitals having invested significantly in procuring these medicines, the loss would be far greater than that of plasma (which was being only harvested on demand by select institutes). #KhabarLive #hydnews