• Monday, Sep 26, 2022
  • Last Update : 10:24 am

Funding crisis clots plasma policy

  • Published at 11:55 am June 21st, 2020
Plasma Therapy
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On April 28, the blood transfusion department at the DMCH decided to explore the convalescent plasma therapy option to treat Covid-19 patients

Even after two months of forming the national technical subcommittee for plasma treatment under the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), a lack of funds and necessary support from the Health Ministry and the Health Services Division has been holding back the formulation of a plasma policy in Bangladesh.

Due to the absence of a policy guideline for plasma treatment, the country is yet to gather specific data on  plasma therapy trial processes across Bangladesh and set a standard on how it is to be applied in treating critical Covid-19 patients.

The government on April 17 formed the national technical subcommittee for plasma treatment under the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) to formulate an appropriate policy that can help all stakeholders work together to speed up the plasma therapy trial process across Bangladesh.

Talking to Dhaka Tribune, a member of the national technical committee said that although there is a rising demand for plasma collection from Covid-19 recovered patients as a probable cure for the critically ill, plasma therapy research has slowed down in Bangladesh due to the lack of financial and logistic support from the government.

On April 28, the blood transfusion department at the DMCH decided to explore the convalescent plasma therapy option to treat Covid-19 patients and was directed by DGHS to supervise other hospitals across the country in this regard.

However, even after two months into its formation, the technical committee does not have any specific data on how many people have taken plasma therapy in Bangladesh as no monitoring and standards regarding plasma treatment could be enforced due to the absence of a standard policy.

“A policy needs to be formulated with the help of experts of the Health Department on how to collect plasma, who will do it, how to store it, and to whom,” Professor Mohiuddin Ahmed Khan, who leads the government's technical committee on plasma therapy, told Dhaka Tribune.

He also warned that plasma therapy can only be applied to critical Covid-19 patients, and that too only if instructed by a registered physician.

Earlier, 45 Covid-19 patients have received plasma therapy at Rajarbagh Central Police Hospital so far. Among them, two died. 

“It has been more than a month since we received permission to conduct research and clinical trials, but no one from the DGHS or the Health Ministry sat for a meeting with us till now. Research is going on, but so far we have not received funding as well as logistic support from the government,” he added.  

“If there is a policy, everyone will have the document when they are giving and receiving plasma.  All of that will be under control, so it is up to the ministry to approve policy following our suggestion,” said Dr MA Khan, who also heads DMCH’s bone marrow transplant (BMT) unit and department of hematology. 

Regarding the matter, Dr Abul Kalam Azad, director-general of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) told Dhaka Tribune: “DGHS is now looking for funds to implement the proposed protocol to implement the treatment option.”

Meanwhile, Dr Aminul Hasan, director (hospital) of DGHS said: “We have sent a requirement to the Health Ministry for funds. We are working on it.”  

The government in its national budget proposal for 2020-21 fiscal year allotted Tk100 crore Integrated Health-Science Research and Development Fund to finance the activities for the development of research on health education, and science and technology. 

Research and clinical trial

After getting ethical permission from the Bangladesh Medical Research Centre (BMRC),the national technical subcommittee has been conducting its research on plasma therapy in a limited manner. 

So far, the plasma committee has collected plasma from 42 people and applied them on 25 patients. But, they do not have statistics of other hospitals conducting plasma treatment.

“We are trying to end the clinical trial by July first week. Although we mentioned in the plasma protocol that we will complete the trials within June, but that could not be done due to the lack of government support and fund crisis.”

“Plasma cannot be applied without a policy because the World Health Organization and FDI guidelines specify on how to apply it on patients. Therefore, a policy is a must for recording data,” Dr MA Khan.

“We are currently conducting randomized clinical trials that are currently being applied in 60 countries around the world,” he added.

He also said the lack of a policy also has been barring inclusion of large blood donor organizations, such as Red Crescent, in the effort to collect plasma more easily and effectively to cater to the country’s demand.

Red Cross and Red Crescent in the USA, UK, and other countries, are collecting plasma to reduce the complications related to the therapy.

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