NEW DELHI: Two days after a corporate hospital in Delhi claimed to have cured a critical COVID-19 patient using plasma therapy, the Centre warned against its indiscriminate use, saying it is still unproven and experimental and could be harmful to patients.
"The Indian Council for Medical Research has stated clearly that there are no approved therapies for COVID-19, including plasma therapy anywhere in the world and the agency is doing a clinical trial related to the therapy," said Lav Agarwal, joint secretary in the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, on Tuesday.
"Till ICMR concludes its study and the results are known, this therapy should not be used as a treatment or to make any claims. It is illegal and can jeopardize (the lives of) patients," the official added.
The convalescent plasma therapy is an experimental way of transfusing antibodies from a recovered patient to the person who is still suffering from the ailment and has been tried in several countries for very sick COVID-19 patients, but there is no conclusive evidence on its success in treating the disease yet.
Several states have shown keen interest in using the therapy.
The clarification by the Union government assumes major significance since it comes following the claim by the Max hospital in Delhi that it had cured a 49-year-old coronavirus patient on ventilator support after infusing him with plasma donated by a recovered patient.
The hospital had said that it had facilitated the administration of plasma on "compassionate grounds" after the family of the patient arranged a donor.
Government sources, however, maintained that the hospital had not carried out the treatment as part of any clinical trial and did not have the requisite permission.
While doubts persist on whether the therapy can be useful for COVID-19 patients as antibodies from other persons can trigger a severe allergic reaction in some patients, a few infectious disease experts expressed support for the use of the therapy in severely ill patients.
"I don’t think ICMR permission should be required for plasma therapy which is used routinely for a number of medical conditions and is largely a safe and time-tested form of treatment," said veteran virologist Dr T Jacob John.