LAHORE: Following a surge in confirmed coronavirus cases and a significant increase in the number of patients recovering, a black market of blood plasma has emerged across the country, particularly in the provincial capital.
People are selling blood plasma of the patients who have recovered from coronavirus for tens of thousands of rupees, The Express Tribune learnt on Saturday.
The blood plasma or convalescent plasma is currently being trialled as a possible treatment for coronavirus disease in different countries, including Pakistan, as it contains antibodies developed by the immune system of people who have won the battle against the virus.
Though a large number of patients overcoming the disease are willing to donate plasma free of charge, some black sheep are using popular social media platforms to contact critically ill coronavirus patients seeking donation.
A patient who wanted to sell his blood plasma after his recent recovery said, “I don’t want to earn money but to recover my expenses incurred on the treatment since thousands of rupees were spent on medicines, consultation and food. I believe there is no harm in recovering the cost while people are selling their blood plasma for tens of thousands of rupees in the city.”
Other people involved in the unethical trade also have their own reasons. Thousands of posts are available on social media indicating that the illegal activity is happening openly without the fear of law enforcing agencies or accountability.
On June 13, a Twitter user posted her thoughts on the issue: “People are making money by selling their plasma to patients in Pakistan.
Humanity is dead.” Meanwhile, many people were of the view that there was nothing wrong with it. They commented that people also sell kidneys and blood.
Besides blood plasma, people have posted requirement for medicines such as Remdesivir, Besimivir and other drugs considered beneficial in coronavirus treatment. To save the lives of their loved ones, some people have expressed their willingness to pay any amount for these scarcely available drugs. In May, the National Institute of Blood Diseases (NIBD) confirmed that the first coronavirus patient who had been treated with plasma therapy had recovered.
The sale of oxygen cylinders is also on the rise in the online black market. A 6-litre cylinder along with regulator and stand is being offered for Rs23,000, while an 8-litre variant is being sold for Rs28,000 and 12-litre equipment is available for Rs35,000.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, an oxygen cylinder dealer, Rashid Malik, highlighted that the prices has increased three-fold owing to very high demand. “Mostly these cylinders are being imported from China, Turkey and Russia. In normal days, we were selling a 12-litre cylinder for Rs12,000 to Rs15,000 and 6-litre for Rs6,000 to Rs7,000,” he disclosed.
The Ministry of National Health Services has already announced action against illegal trading of blood plasma and black marketing of life-saving drugs used for coronavirus patients in the country. Health experts are warning citizens not to pay donors for blood plasma since it is still an experimental therapy.
As per the Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues Act 2012, commercial dealing and trade of human organs and tissues is illegal in the country.
Section 11 of the law highlights that whoever makes or receives any payment for the supply of, or for an offer to supply, any human organ; seeks to find a person willing to supply for payment of any human organ; or offers to supply any human organ for payment shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 10 years and with fine of up to Rs1 million.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 28th, 2020.