Thursday June 20, 2024

Expert complains of corona plasma therapy hype, state’s indifference

By Jamila Achakzai
July 12, 2020

Islamabad : Blood transfusion expert Prof Hasan Abbas Zaheer has complained that convalescent plasma therapy is being hyped up as the miracle coronavirus treatment due to the state’s indifference.

“Thanks to the social media, the perception that COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma (CCP) therapy is the miracle cure for the novel coronavirus is gaining ground. As a physician forum challenges the indiscriminate use of plasma therapy and advocates caution and restrain, while some experts recommend the therapy for all and sundry, a sad occurrence in this bizarre saga is the innocent bystander role of the state, system and health regulators. The absolving of its authority by the state in this manner is inadvertently the promotion of herd immunity, a polite way of telling the people that they have to manage coronavirus by themselves and that only the fittest will survive [it],” he told ‘The News’.

Prof Hasan, a former coordinator of the national health ministry’s Safe Blood Transfusion Programme, said the World Health Organisation had declared coronavirus a global emergency almost seven months ago, while the virus had broken out in Pakistan over four months ago, so the Pakistani state had ample time to assess the risk, make a policy, strategy and framework, mobilise and allocate funds, develop a surveillance system and screening and testing capacities, carry out a behaviour change communication campaign and prepare the health delivery system to meet all eventualities, but none of it seemed to be in place to meet the challenge.

He said coronavirus could have been managed better if it was left to the professionals with minimal politicking as confusing statements by politicians only added to the confusion by causing conspiracy theories instead of scientific awareness.

“The problem would have been managed better had the state promptly developed guidelines through a rapid consultative process based on the best international practices and emerging evidence and ensured compliance at the national level by building consensus. Sadly, political point-scoring and undermining initiatives in one province allowed random province-wise approaches for a serious healthcare challenge that needed a consistent response.

“As a result, indiscriminate compassionate CCP transfusions happened without taking into consideration the eligibility of the CCP donor, pre-screening and pre-donation testing of the donor, criteria of collection of CCP, suitability of the transfusion recipient, post-donation treatment of CCP and recommendations of CCP transfusion,” he said.

The expert said the role of CCP therapy in the treatment of COVID-19 should have been properly thought out by the state to avoid the subsequent controversy, confusion and exploitation of patients.

He also said the management of the trial, data collection and its analysis could have been better managed by the involvement of the relevant national partners to ensure that the results of the study and its publication meet the international criteria.

Prof Hasan said the National Disaster Management Authority coordinating the national COVID-19 response should have been used to share the database of virus recoveries with the research team to access the potential plasma donors and that proper counseling services for plasma donation should have been organised by that team.

He said the SBTP, which had been implementing blood safety systems reforms in the country since 2010 with the financial support of the German government and technical assistance of the WHO, should have been tasked with managing convalescent plasma collection to spare patients the misery and agony of hunting for CCP donors.

The expert also said the quadrat of the research trial team, NDMA, SBTP and HCCs could have seamlessly managed the key national study.

He said preliminary results of the clinical trial would have been available by now for all to learn and act but that didn’t happen and thus, causing confusion, chaos and mismanagement.