(Representative Image) Photograph:( PTI )
Convalescent plasma is being trialled around the world as a possible treatment for the disease. It contains antibodies generated by the immune systems of people who have fought off the virus.
With hospitals in Pakistan overflowing with surging number of coronavirus cases across the country, a dangerous black market in blood plasma has come to the fore, reports said.
According to The Guardian, the blood plasma of recovered coronavirus patients is now being sold for upwards of £3,000 to those who are desperately looking for a cure, at a time when doctors say Pakistan’s healthcare system is on the brink of collapse.
Convalescent plasma is being trialled around the world as a possible treatment for the disease. It contains antibodies generated by the immune systems of people who have fought the virus.
Doctors in government hospitals in Islamabad said they had witnessed transactions between patients and intermediaries, according to the report.
The Guardian report stated that it has seen multiple text messages between people across Pakistan who are buying and selling the plasma of recovered patients.
“The hospitals are not involved but I have seen deals happen in front of me,” the report said quoting a doctor at a government hospital in Islamabad, who asked not to be named.
“Usually a patient’s attendants or family will approach someone who has recovered, asking them to donate blood. When a certain amount is agreed as payment, usually between 200,000 and 800,000 rupees (£950-£3,800), they go to a private lab and extract the plasma, which is then ‘donated’ to the patients.”
He added: “I know a family of five who became Covid-19 positive and spent 3.5m rupees on blood plasma on the black market. They believe it’s a miracle cure.”
Sources at the federal investigation agency confirmed they were aware of the unregulated black market sales of blood plasma but that it was up to the police to investigate individual cases.
Doctors said that hospitals in Islamabad had also run out of vital drugs, such as dexamethasone which was recently proven to help in Covid-19 recovery, as well oxygen cylinders, because they had been stolen and were now being sold for 25 times the market price on the black market.
Pakistan now has one of the fastest infection rates in the world, with 185,000 confirmed cases and upwards of 5,000 new infections a day. The planning minister, Asad Umar, has said cases could multiply eightfold by the end of July and hit 1.2 million.