Coronavirus in Mumbai: FDA warns blood banks on plasma donation, tells to check genuine COVID-19 survivors

Mumbai: The Food and Drug Association has directed blood banks across the city to verify COVID-19 reports of plasma donors with the hospitals they were treated in, to ensure that the donors are genuinely those who were infected and have survived the virus. The FDA had learnt that many blood banks were providing normal plasma to the hospital and passing it off as convalescent plasma.Acting on several complaints of blood banks charging large sums for plasmapheresis, or donors demanding exorbitant amounts to donate plasma, the FDA has also warned blood banks across the city that they could lose their licence if they demand money for convalescent plasma therapy.

Dr D R Gahane, Joint commissioner, FDA, said that amid the pandemic, the demand for plasma has increased in the city. However, there are very few donors, and those who are capable of donating are demanding money for the noble cause.

“We have 60 blood banks, of which 14 have licences for convalescent plasma therapy. After receiving complaints, we issued a circular stating all the blood banks must follow the rules during the pandemic, and if anyone is found flouting the norms, action will be taken against them under the Drugs And Cosmetic Act, 1940,” he said.

Convalescent Plasma therapy involves extracting plasma from recovered patients 21-28 days after they are discharged, and injecting it into a critically ill COVID-19 patient. The antibodies developed in a recovered patient helps fight against the virus in critical patients. A recovered patient can donate once in every 15 days, up to four months after discharge.Gahane added that the FDA has directed all blood banks to verify the COVID-19 reports of the donor, as many donors have shown fake reports just to make some money. The FDA is reviewing cases to ascertain how many genuine COVID-19 survivors have donated plasma.

“We asked the blood banks to check the reports thoroughly and verify them with the concerned hospital the donor was admitted in. Moreover, a copy of those reports should be kept with them,” he said.

Dr. Sumir Dembla, Blood Transfusion Officer, at the civic VN Desai Hospital Blood Bank, Santacruz, said it was a great move by the FDA, as several donors and blood banks have been viewing it as a money-making opportunity, due to which black marketing is rampant.

“It is a much needed step to be taken, as till now, many have either been fooled or made money with submission of fake COVID-19 reports,” said Dembla.

- No payment for donors, as paid or professional donors are prohibited. While getting their licence, blood banks give an undertaking that they won't deal with such donors.

- Blood banks to check whether the donor was really COVID-19 positive in the past

- Blood banks will not give normal plasma in the name of convalescent plasma

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