DOH digs into blood plasma vending

Representational image of blood plasma | Australian Red Cross Lifeblood

CEBU City, Philippines – The Department of Health Central Visayas is seriously looking into the alleged illegal trade of convalescence plasma happening in Barangay Luz. Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, Chief Pathologist of DOH-7 revealed that they are now monitoring this alleged illegal trade.

“We have been getting reports that there are donors, especially in areas where (the) COVID cases are very high, and (they) have recovered, whereby they are approached by private individuals who will be needing their convalescent plasma. At first we heard that it is (sold at) P20 thousand per donor. But as of late, we heard that it is P80 thousand already. As you can see it is getting higher and higher. This is contrary to the projects and program of the government program which is voluntary blood donation.,” Dr. Loreche said in an interview aired at GMA-7’s 24 Oras.

DOH-7 is monitoring Bo. Luz, specifically Sitio Zapatera, where all 147 COVID positive cases have recovered. Reportedly, there are middlemen who do the transactions on behalf of the recovered patients with the supposed buyers.

However, a Bo. Luz health worker denied these illegal transactions but admitted most negotiations are done directly by the patients themselves or by their representatives.

This anomaly stemmed from the exposé of broadcaster Leo Lastimosa who alleged those high-end/posh cars were frequently seen in an alley in Sitio Zapatera supposedly looking for plasma donors for their family members who are currently in hospitals suffering from COVID-19.

Accordingly, a bag of convalescent plasma could go as high as P80,000. However, this illegal trade is not isolated in Cebu City.

COVID-19 survivors in Nepal and Pakistan are also offered as high as 2 million rupees in exchange for their convalescent blood plasma.

Convalescent blood plasma from recovered COVID patients is found to contain anti-bodies that could help severe to critical symptomatic patients recuperate faster.

Recently, Cebu Doctors University Hospital introduced a Hybrid Therapeutic Plasma Exchange and Convalescent Plasma Therapy as a solution or treatment for severe symptomatic COVID patients.

The process is to replace unhealthy plasma, using a machine called Plasmapheresis and replace it with a new plasma taken from a coronavirus disease survivor.

Currently, DOH-7 has instructed hospitals not to process plasma transfusions if it comes from illegal transactions.

“Any form of sale of body parts or even blood products is a big no-no. We are actually looking into what violations that we can file against these donors who sells their blood and blood products or to persons who recruited them for use of their patients or to persons to sell it to another person,” added Dr. Loreche. /RCM