ICMR’s national task force to review ‘inappropriate use’ of plasma therapy in Covid-19 treatment

The Indian Council of Medical Research’s (ICMR) national task force on Covid-19 will sit down to review the ‘inappropriate use’ of plasma therapy for Covid-19 treatment on Friday.

Plasma therapy is being practiced for the treatment of covid patients in the country. It is a process in which the antibodies found in the blood of a person, who has recovered from an infection (convalesced), is used to treat other infected people.

Irrational and non-scientific use

The review meeting is being held to address the concern raised by several clinicians and scientists in the country. They had written to K Vijay Raghavan, the government’s principal scientific advisor, expressing their concerns over the ‘irrational and non-scientific use’ of convalesced plasma for Covid-19 treatment in the country.

What does the letter say?

The letter states that the ICMR guidelines on plasma therapy are not based on the existing evidence.

“The problematic scenario arises because of guidelines issued by ICMR/AIIMS which currently recommend plasma therapy as “off label” use. This is rather unusual as off-label use by its very definition implies unapproved use”, the letter stated.

The letter also pointed out that international guidelines such as those from the National Institute of Health (NIH), USA, and the IDSA guidelines also recommend against the general use of plasma therapy for Covid-19.

On April 22, 2021, ICMR/AIIMS national task force had issued “Clinical guidance for management of adult covid-19 patients’. It said that convalescent plasma (off label) may only be considered when the criteria for it are met.

Covid-19 and plasma therapy

Plasma therapy was first used in states like Delhi and Kerala in the treatment of COVID-19 patients. The blood of a COVID recovered patient that has antibodies to the virus is taken and injected into a person who is severely affected by Covid. The process helps the severely affected patient in recovering. However, there is no confirmation on whether plasma therapy is helpful in curing a COVID patient or not.

Who can donate plasma?

According to ICMR/AIIMS guidelines, a person may be considered for plasma therapy only when the following criteria are met:

-Early moderate disease preferably within 7 days of symptom onset. It is of no use after 7 days.

-Availability of high titre donor plasma

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