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Mumbai: ICMR pulls up Nair Hospital for sharing plasma with private hospitals not in Covid-cure trial | Mumbai News

MUMBAI: The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) recently sought an explanation from the BMC-run B Y L Nair Hospital over the distribution of plasma units to hospitals not registered for the Covid-19 treatment trial. TOI has learnt that the hospital has given a written explanation to the ICMR, whose move was possibly triggered by reports that plasma was being sold in the grey market.
The hospital provided units of plasma from recovered patients on ‘compassionate grounds’ to moderately-ill and serious Covid patients – including two IAS officers – undergoing treatment at private hospitals. In fact, the first person to receive the plasma was a 53-year-old man, who was critical in Bandra’s Lilavati Hospital and eventually succumbed to the infection.
Dr Mohan Joshi, dean of Nair Hospital, and Dr Jayanti Shastri, one of the principal investigators of the study, denied the development. The other principal investigator, Dr Om Srivastava, was not reachable. But sources told TOI that the ICMR “came down heavily” on Nair authorities and even threatened that the trial could be taken away from them. “An explanation was sought from the hospital and a detailed one has been given to the ICMR,” said a senior doctor.
A part of the ICMR’s concern apparently stemmed from reports claiming that plasma was a hot commodity in the grey market across the country. “The news report, based on the interview of a senior cop, had said a unit of plasma was being sold for Rs 10,000 on the dark net. While this raised the ICMR’s hackles, they wanted to be sure that public hospitals in Mumbai were being careful with their stocks,” the source added. Plasma therapy is experimental at this point and can only be administered under a clinical trial.
Nair Hospital, along with Kasturba Hospital, was the first in the state to get permission to carry out trials for plasma therapy, which had shown promise in Africa against Ebola. H N Reliance Hospital is the only other hospital in the city cleared for the trial. “However, since the ICMR letter, the Nair Hospital dean has written to other BMC hospitals to apply for plasma clinical trial,” said a BMC official.
While Nair Hospital is trying to create a bank of plasma from donors of various blood groups, it has been besieged with requests from private hospitals seeking a unit on compassionate grounds. “This has become a big issue and barely five patients in Nair and Kasturba have been given plasma although the trial needs 20 patients,” said a senior doctor.
Several private doctors, on the other hand, have been mounting pressure on the civic and state authorities to allow more of them to collect and use the therapy. “Our answer is simple. Why can’t they apply and become a part of the clinical trial,” said a civic official. Across the state, five hospitals are now part of the PLACID trial to see the efficacy of plasma therapy to treat Covid-19.

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