The Department of Health on Sunday warned the public against buying or selling the convalescent plasma of recovered COVID-19 patients.
The department says the plasma could pose serious risks to patients who may contract transfusion-transmissible infections such as HIV, hepatitis and malaria.
The department made the reminder following increasing reports from the families of critically-ill COVID-19 patients allegedly buying convalescent plasma from recovered patients, hospital staff, or fixers.
There were also other reports that some people were intentionally infecting themselves so that their plasma could be donated after recovery, and for which they were promised remuneration.
The department says the alleged transactions and practices are illegal, reckless and dangerous. Those people do not only place their lives at risk, but they also put their families and communities at risk when they voluntarily get infected.
Only the Philippine Blood Center and the Philippine Red Cross in the Port Area are the certified non-hospital-based convalescent plasma collection facilities, while the Philippine General Hospital and St. Luke’s Medical Center are the only hospitals certified to collect convalescent plasma for use in their treatment protocol.
Though used for the COVID-19 treatment protocol in some local hospitals, the plasma’s effectiveness as a therapy is still being evaluated. To date, there is no evidence yet to show that it is effective against SARS-Cov2.
“Trading blood and other blood products, including those from recovered COVID-19 patients, is not only illegal but highly dangerous,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque said.
“Convalescent plasma should not be for sale and should be voluntarily donated for COVID-19 patients in need.”
Republic Act 7719, also known as the “National Blood Service Act of 1994”, says all blood and blood products will be collected from volunteer blood donors only. Paid donation is not allowed, and the facilities that will pay blood donors will be penalized.
Officials from government hospitals like the PGH have been calling for blood plasma donations from recovered COVID-19 patients.
But the Health department says those donations should be done voluntarily and should go through the official process to ensure the safety of both recipients and donors.
The department is also appealing to the relatives of patients to stop dealing with fixers operating inside and outside hospitals. It also asked the public to donate blood voluntarily.
“Only through voluntary donation will you be assured of your health and safety, and only through this selfless act of service will you reap the satisfaction of having helped save the life of someone in need,” the department said.