AAPI to host interfaith virtual candlelight vigil, asks President Trump to enhance national registry for blood plasma donors

Ritu Jha-

The American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin has urged President Donald Trump to enhance the existing national registry of COVID-19 patients who have recovered to collect plasma that could help with treatment of infected patients.

The letter dated April 9th was signed by Dr. Suresh Reddy, AAPI president, and Dr. Lokesh Edara, chair on AAPI’s Ad Hoc Committee, representing the nearly 100,000 Physicians of Indian Origin in the United States.

“To enhance the existing national registry of COVID-19 recovered patients to collect their convalescent plasma, support the creation of supply chain and implementation process in the EARLY treatment of patients infected with Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) presenting with hypoxia.” said the AAPI in a press statement.

Blood donation drive

The U.S. has become the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic after reported cases surpassed those officially reported by China. Since the novel coronavirus called SARSCoV-2 was first detected in the U.S. on Jan. 20, it has spread to at least a half-million people in the U.S., across all 50 states, and taking the lives of more than 16,000 people.

Convalescent plasma, the fluid in blood teeming with antibodies post-illness, has proven effective in small studies to treat infectious diseases including Ebola and SARS.

Now, the US Food and Drug Administration has given the green signal to physicians to experiment with the strategy as coronavirus patients fill hospitals and the nation’s positive caseload spikes to over 236,000.

Bruce Sachias, chief medical officer of the New York Blood Center — which will collect, test and distribute donations in the city – said, while there is reason to believe plasma transfusions can help alleviate the current crisis, tests underway are not intended to yield golden-ticket solutions.

“It’s really important for us to be very cognizant of the fact that we’re still in very new territory,” he said.

AAPI leaders while thanking Trump “for guiding the FDA in launching a national effort to bring blood-related therapies for COVID-19 patients in the most expedited manner,” reiterated the studies done on COVID-19 cases have shown benefits using convalescent plasma from recovered patients in combating viral infections.

“While COVID-19 continues to disrupt life around the globe, AAPI is committed to helping its tens of thousands of members across the US and others across the globe, as concerned physicians witnessing the growing COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on our society, healthcare system and economy, AAPI has launched the Plasma Drive from patients who have been cured of COVID-19 and are now with no Corona-virus related symptoms for at least the past two weeks,” Dr. Suresh Reddy, president of AAPI, announced.

“AAPI, would like to join your efforts in helping patients recover from this deadly illness. We would like to emphasize the benefit of giving convalescent plasma to COVID-19 patients at an early stage before the onset of hypoxia and potentially before intubation at the approval of doctor and the patient being treated,” Reddy said.

“This could be a lifesaving measure as well as prevent many patients in going to need ventilator support. In Ohio on April 8, 2020 we have to take permission of the governor to get convalescent plasma therapy for a physician suffering from COVID -19,” Edara added.

In addition to the entire AAPI Executive Team, others who are signatories to the letter included Dr. Anith Guduri, Sub Editor; Dr. Madhavi Gorusu, chair on AAPI COVID-19 Plasma Donation Task Force; Dr. Rupak Parikh, co-chair of AAPI COVID-19 Plasma Drive; Dr. Purvi Parikh, co-chair of AAPI COVID-19 Plasma Drive; Dr. Amit Charkrabarty, co-chair of AAPI COVID-19 Plasma Drive; and Dr. Deeptha Nedunchezian, chair of AAPI’s Education Committee.

Currently the USA Comprehensive Care Partnership (CCP) requires an FDA-approved Investigational New Drug Application (IND) for administration to a patient but does not require an IND for collection, manufacturing and distribution of plasma, as per FDA’s April 3 press release.

However, obtaining approval takes time, and time is of essence here for saving lives in this national emergency. Blood donation centers across the U.S. are ramping up efforts to collect plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19 in the hope it can be used to save the lives of others infected with the pandemic disease.

Some other effective initiatives by AAPI include: Offering regular teleconference calls which have been attended by over 4,000 physicians from across the U.S. AAPI has also collaborated with other national, international and government organizations such as Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the Indian Embassy in Washington, D.C., the National Council of Asian Indian Americans (NCAIA), GAPIO, BAPIO, and Australian Indian Medical Graduates Association, in its efforts to educate and inform physicians and the public about the virus, to prevent and treat people with the affected by corona virus.

AAPI begins ‘Donate a Mask’ campaign.

Another AAPI major initiative has been the “Donate a Mask” program, under the leadership of Dr. Sudhakar Jonnalagadda, president-elect of AAPI, Dr. Sajani Shah, chairwoman-elect of AAPI’s BOD, and Dr. Ami Baxi. AAPI is planning a Virtual Candlelight Vigil on April 12 honoring  physicians and others who have lost their lives to the deadly virus.

“We would like to request you to endorse the wide implementation of plasma donation from recovering patients, enhance support to the Blood donation centers and facilitate the shortening of the time required for patient to receive the required supportive treatment,” AAPI wrote in the letter to Trump.

AAPI expressed confidence that the Trump administration will take required steps to facilitate this therapy to be widely available as a viable option in saving American lives. “Under your leadership, we can all fight this invisible enemy, COVID-19, and beat this pandemic. Thank you for your continued leadership and service to the United States of America,” Reddy said.

AAPI has set up a web portal where potential donors can register  — https://www.aapiusa.org/covid-19/aapi-plasma-registry/ — or get more information by emailing aapicovidplasmadonor@gmail.com.




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