Egypt seeks self-sufficiency in plasma
The Ministry of Health has signed an agreement with digital health platform Altibbi to encourage the public to donate plasma.
The antibodies and proteins present in plasma are used in therapies for many serious health problems and chronic health conditions, including autoimmune disorders, hemophilia, and liver and kidney diseases. Egypt’s national project for blood plasma donation, launched in 2021 by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, aims to achieve self-sufficiency in plasma and its derivatives.
Altibbi’s CEO Jalil Al-Abadi told Al-Ahram Weekly that the partnership is a continuation of the company’s effort to help the Egyptian government increase access to quality healthcare at reduced cost by encouraging new donors. Under the agreement, Altibbi Egypt will provide plasma donors with free medical consultations across all specialties for a year.
Consultations will be provided by the company’s medical team, with donors able to log on to the platform’s website and use it free of charge. Altibbi has also set up a hotline (1130) to help donors.
During the Covid-19 crisis Altibbi contributed to alleviating pressure on Egypt’s healthcare systems. “We used to provide medical consultations for people with symptoms and directed them to the right doctor when necessary,” said Al-Abadi.
The platform has expanded its presence in Egypt. “We are now moving to a bigger office in New Cairo and recruiting more staff,” says its CEO.
Work is underway to finalise promotional activities and the design and language of the donor programme which Altibbi hopes to launch immediately after the holy month of Ramadan.
“We get more than 300,000 visitors to our website from Egypt each day. It has the largest medical content in Arabic; visitors have questions about the whole range of medical issues and are looking for answers,” says Al-Abadi. “We are going to tell all visitors about the plasma national project and the importance of donating.”
Other promotional and advertorial channels such as the TV and social media will not be the best choice, Al-Abadi said.
The Ministry of Health and Population, which currently imports plasma and its derivatives, plans to be self-sufficient within six to eight years.
Nevine Al-Nahhas, supervisor of the national plasma donation project, says Egypt’s current capacity for plasma is 300,000 litres a year, and that plasma is most needed to produce albumin-factor 8 and immunoglobulin.
Al-Nahhas noted that many people are unaware of the importance of donating plasma and that the ministry’s agreement with Altibbi will increase the number of donors.
“We currently import 100 per cent of plasma derivatives,” she said, despite Ministry of Health laboratories’ plasma collection capacity.
In December 2020, parliament approved a law regulating the collection of plasma for the manufacture and export of plasma derivatives.
The law included a roadmap for the collection of plasma and its derivatives and comprises 23 articles on blood operations, plasma collection, manufacture of plasma-derived products and plasma transfusion, with the intention of manufacturing derivatives abroad and then returning them in the form of biological products.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 7 April, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.