ICMR says plasma therapy not beneficial, may not reduce mortality rates


Convalescent plasma therapy, which involves infusing COVID-19 patients with plasma of recovered patients, is usually reserved for those with severe complications. It is believe that antibodies in the plasma of recovered patients will act as a shield against the disease and also enable the immune system of a patient to effectively fight the virus. To evaluate the safety and efficacy of this therapy, the Indian Council of Medical Research has been studying it through open label, randomized clinical trial since May this year. Also Read – Plasma therapy is a safe option for children with severe COVID-19

In a new development that is likely to dash the hopes many, a new study has shown that plasma therapy may not really benefit either in reducing mortality or arresting the progression of the disease. Researchers came to this conclusion after conducting the world’s largest randomised control trial by the Indian Council of Medical Research to assess plasma therapy for COVID-19, titled, PLACID. Tis trial was spread across 39 hospitals in 14 states and Union Territories. Researchers studied 464 moderately ill patients with breathing difficulties and oxygen saturation level of less than 93 per cent. Of them, 235 were given convalescent plasma with antibodies against SARS CoV2 received from donors who had recovered from the virus. The rest received standard care. Those in the intervention group were transfused with two doses of 200 ml plasma 24 hours apart. Both the intervention and control groups were compared after 28 days. Also Read – Oxford vaccine trial put on hold after participant experience adverse reactions

No change in mortality rates

The findings of the study, released now on a preprint server of health research, reveals that 34 patients or 13.6 per cent, who received plasma therapy, died. Another 31 patients or 14.6 per cent, who did not receive it, also died of the infection. They also saw that 17 patients in each group progressed to severe complications. Also Read – Russia approaches India for Sputnik vaccine Phase-3 trial, production

This led the researchers to conclude that convalescent plasma therapy is not associated with a reduction in mortality or progression to severe COVID-19. These findings are significant because state governments have actively been promoting the therapy and have even set up plasma banks after the national COVID-19 clinical management protocol allowed it as an investigational therapy. This has also created an environment for a thriving black market for plasma.

This therapy may offer minor benefits

Experts, however, reveal that plasma therapy may still offer some minor benefits. It can help doctors deal with symptoms like shortness of breath and fatigue. But it hardly made any difference in fever and cough resolution. Nor did it bring down the requirement of invasive ventilation and vasopressor support.

Plasma therapy is not without risks

This transfusion treatment procedure comes with its own set of risks. It can cause reactions that may be mild like fever and itching. But sometimes, the allergic reactions can turn life-threatening and may even damage the lungs. The ICMR has long held that it is dangerous to recommend any therapy without studying it thoroughly as it may do more harm than good. The results of the latest study vindicates the stand taken by the premier medical body and reiterates the need for thorough trials before any therapy is recommended.

(With input from Agencies)

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