Blood plasma sale to Reliance by state blood banks in Odisha under scanner

Health officials say nothing wrong with decision to sell surplus blood plasma for revenue; activists say it's unethical

By Ashis Senapati
Published: Tuesday 06 May 2014

Central Red Cross Blood Bank at Cuttack had sold 200 units of blood plasma to the Reliance company for its global plasma proteins business (Photo by Ashis Senapati)

The sale of blood plasma by government-managed blood banks in Odisha to Reliance Life Sciences Private Ltd (RLS), Mumbai, is under scanner following widespread criticism.

Health minister of Odisha, Damodar Rout, sought a report from Odisha State AIDS Control Society (OSACS) on Sunday following reports that the Central Red Cross Blood Bank at Cuttack and VSS Medical College and Hospital Blood Bank at Burla have sold blood plasma to the private company.

On Tuesday, the project director of OSACS cum special secretary to health department, Nalinikanta Das, submitted a report to the minister, in which he said that the decision to sell surplus plasma was taken on April 29 at a meeting in the office of OSACS in Bhubaneswar, which was attended by officials of blood banks, senior health officials and others. It was decided that surplus blood plasma would be sold to generate revenue for the blood banks. “It is not illegal on the part of the health department to sell blood plasma to the private company,”  Das said in the report.

“RLS is building an integrated and global plasma proteins business. The company currently markets plasma protein for which it purchased blood plasma from the blood banks in Odisha,” informed Rajlaxmi Mohanty, director of State Blood Transfusion Council (SBTC).

Sale at patients' cost?

Mohanty said that SBTC had directed all the blood banks of the state on April 25 to sell surplus blood plasma to RLS after which the Central Blood Bank of Cuttack sold 200 units of blood plasma to the private company. “During my investigation, many persons alleged that blood bank officials refused to provide blood plasma to many patients, and sold it to a private company. I am examining the records of the blood bank to check this,” she said.

Three components are drawn from blood —platelets, packed red blood cells and plasma. Of the three, there is huge demand for platelets and packed red cells while the clinical demand for plasma is mainly for treating burn victims, added Mohanty.

Minister kept in the dark

Health minister Rout, however, said he was unaware of the development. “I was quite in dark about the decision of the health officials to allow blood banks to sell blood plasma as I was busy with election campaigning for the past one month. Senior health officials did not inform or consult me before taking the decision. I am examining the report submitted to me,” said Rout.
Laxmidhar Mohanty, additional district magistrate (ADM) of Cuttack, who has been directed to submit a detailed report on the subject, said the health department had done nothing illegal.
Health secretary of Odisha, P K Mohapatra, also defended the decision: “The blood plasma will be of no use after two years. We have decided to sell the surplus blood plasma available with blood banks. Blood plasma worth crores of rupees had earlier been destroyed.”

Activists, however, have their suspicion. “The sale of blood plasma to a private company at the meagre rate of Rs1,000 per litre proves that senior health officials are hand-in-glove with the private company. Blood banks collect blood in the form of donations because of which it is also unethical to sell products of blood,” said Amarbara Biswal, a human right activist of Odisha.

Feature: The knowledge, attitude and practice towards blood donation among voluntary blood donors in Chennai, India

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