The promise of plasma therapy against medium and critically ill COVID-19 patients has led to a nefarious activity – a robust black market in blood plasma, notably donated plasma from recovered COVID patients. India’s corona crisis shows no signs of a slowdown right now, with 1,241,654 infected persons and 29,906 deaths.
Police and media outlets are already compiling notes around plasma-related fraud in multiple cities. In Hyderabad, a conman duped more than 200 people through social media, promising blood plasma, and anti-viral drugs. People also talk about accounts of plasma donors and middlemen representing them, asking for Rs 20,000 to Rs 3,00,000 per donation.
“It’s a case of heightened demand and the lack of steady supply,” explains Dr Vinodkumar Badgu, the managing director, Vinodbadgu Pharmaceutical Pvt. Ltd. (V B Pharma). “Even though the Supreme Court outlawed paid donations in 1996 and the National Blood Policy prohibits the sale and trade of blood and blood products, many aims to profit from this crisis. Intermediaries are connecting with donors, blood banks, and even patients, with lucrative offers. The rarer the blood, the higher the offer”, he added.
As a solution against this growing black market menace, Dr Badgu said, “Apart from awareness, we also need support from the government and big pharma to identify and recreate plasma-based antibodies artificially. The Indian plasma industry has always depended on imports of plasma and plasma-based products. The current crisis has also heightened the need to work against this heavy import dependency, especially for specific proteins and antibodies.”
Independent, sanitised, plasma donation centres will also help others come forward and boost supply for the precious fluid. This move will assuage fears that they might catch the disease again. “We need to ensure that blood collection centres for plasma donors are safe from contamination and COVID risk. We ensure that our labs are as contamination-free as possible, as we collect blood here for patient and research purposes”, shared Prashant Karulkar, director, Vinodbadgu Pharmaceutical Pvt. Ltd. (V B Pharma).