Pakistan’s black market trade in blood plasma

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Shafaqna Pakistan:  Blood plasma therapy is used all around the world as a possible treatment for Covid-19 patients as it contains antibodies generated by the immune system of the people who have recovered from the virus. In many cases, the coronavirus patients have successfully recovered from the virus after getting plasma of a recovered patient.

Like other parts of the world, there were reports of the business of plasma creating space in Pakistan, including in the twin cities.

Some doctors in government hospitals said that they have witnessed transactions between patients and donors. However, they said their number is low as compared to the people who voluntarily donate their convalescent plasma.

When the family of critical Covid-19 patient is left with no option other than plasma therapy, they opt to save the life of their loved one, says Dr. Rai Amir at BBH Rawalpindi while sharing his observation.

Although some cases of plasma trade have been witnessed in Benazir Bhutto Hospital (BBH), their ratio is far less than those who donate their plasma free of cost, Dr. Rai adds.

There is no fixed price of blood plasma here. It depends on the financial position of the purchasing party and marketing capability of the donor, said another doctor at BBH on the condition of anonymity.

So far, the rate of plasma has been reported between Rs35,000 and Rs115,000, he said. There are seven to eight patients for whom their families have purchased plasma, said the BBH doctor.

“I have known a 63-year-old patient who became Covid-19 positive and spent Rs115,000 on blood plasma, said another doctor at BBH requested not to be named.

He also shared this Whatsapp exchange between two relatives:

Dr. Rai Amir said the recovery ratio of recovery from plasma therapy is not so ideal. The treatment is being used when a patient goes on a ventilator, adding that this therapy can be effective if it has been used before the patient turns critical.

Plasma therapy is not a standard remedy for Covid-19 patients. Dr. Rai said there is a majority of recovered patients who have presented themselves for plasma donation, which is an easy procedure and takes 30 to 45 minutes. It’s just a normal blood donation process, he adds.

DC Rawalpindi Capt (retd.) Anwaar ul Haq, while denying any black market trade of plasma in Rawalpindi, said that there were two public sector hospitals providing treatment facilities to the Covid-19 patients, but none of them used convalescent plasma therapy as a treatment.

Dr. Fazal Rabbi, the registrar at the Covid-19 ICU in PIMS, said the hospitals in Islamabad were not involved in the business. “But I have heard from colleagues that deals for plasma of recovered patients happen through different WhatsApp groups’, he said.

While the authorities deny existence of a black market, several patients in the past few weeks have taken to social media in private groups to share how they had to pay lacs of rupees to get plasma for their coronavirus-infected loved ones.

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