The black market for blood plasma of COVID-19 recovered patients is thriving in places like India and Iraq among other countries. India recently crossed the one million mark in the number of coronavirus patients. Prices in the Indian black market range from $266 (Rs. 20,000) to around $4,003 (Rs. 3,00,000) per donation, with higher rates for rare blood groups. Whereas in Iraq, blood plasma is selling for $2,000 per liter, say reports.

Plasma therapy for novel coronavirus patients is done using the blood of those who have recovered from COVID-19, as they will have developed antibodies against the pathogen. Administering it to virus affected patients with the same blood group helps speedy recovery.

The Straits Times reported a case in Delhi where doctors advised plasma therapy for an elderly patient. Two women volunteers came forward to donate plasma, but they were ineligible as they had conceived earlier. During their pregnancy, women develop antibodies that are risky and can lead to a rare and fatal transfusion reaction, which leads to lung damage in the recipient.

Black Market of Plasma

Blood plasma
Blood Plasma (Representational picture) Pixabay

When the patient's family and friends searched for plasma, they were asked $400 (Rs. 30,000), but they never came back. However, the patient in question was donated plasma by someone else. Those being able to pay huge sums of money may get access to blood plasma.

Almost two-thirds out of India's 1.04 million coronavirus patients have already been recovered, but many of those recovered ones lack the will to donate their plasma, according to the report. This has led to a late start of authorized plasma banking centers and further led to a flourishing black market of blood plasma or "liquid gold".

Middlemen

Many have set up online groups to connect plasma donors and seekers, but these efforts have also given rise to several middlemen. Akhil Ennamsetty, a lawyer from Telangana State's Warangal who donated plasma twice told the outlet that the middlemen offer amounts that vary based on various factors like demand and rareness blood groups. "Many genuine donors I have been touch with have also said they are getting direct calls from these middlemen."

Dr Anant Bhan, a bioethics researcher Tweeted that it was unfortunate but not surprising:

An online initiative called Dhoondh, co-founded by Mal is linking donors and recipients in India, but there are 10 seekers for one donor on the platform. Only 300 donors have been registered so far.

Iraq

Similar is the case of Iraq, as reported by Al-Monitor. Iraqi parliament member Rizan Al-Sheikh said that traffickers and middlemen were encouraging recovered patients to sell their plasma, with no supervision by the Ministry of Health, that has allowed the black market of blood plasma to thrive. Plasma costs around $2,000 in the country's black market.

Iraqi High Commission's member for Human Rights Ali al-Bayati said that patients were being exploited for their need for blood plasma. "Poverty and desperation have pushed many coronavirus patients to sell their antibody-rich plasma," he added.