The Bihar drug administration Friday initiated proceedings to cancel the licence of a private blood centre in state capital Patna for its alleged role in interstate smuggling of human blood, officials familiar with the development said.
This is the first interstate blood racket unearthed in Bihar, after 44 units of whole blood and fresh frozen plasma, a component of blood, were allegedly smuggled from Kolkata and kept in a domestic refrigerator at the residence of a former laboratory technician of the private blood bank, the police had found during a raid in Patna on July 23.
On Friday, the state drug controller issued a show-cause notice, giving the Niveda Blood Centre, where the laboratory technician used to work earlier, time till Monday to reply to the charges of violation of blood safety rules.
“We have issued a show-cause notice to the Niveda Blood Centre, giving it an opportunity to explain why its licence be not cancelled for the grave lapses in blood safety norms and documentation of inventory as well as blood donor and recipient record,” an official in the state drug control administration said.
The blood centre claimed to have an agreement to get blood from the Lifecare Medical Foundation Blood Centre at 204/1B Linton Street in Kolkata. It, however, did not have permission from the National Blood Transfusion Council (NBTC), a mandatory prerequisite for interstate transportation of blood, said drug officials.
The blood centre also did not have on a permanent basis medical officer and laboratory technician, which is mandatory as per the rules governing blood safety under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940.
“One of the two medical officers, shown in its records to the government, had resigned last year. The blood centre, however, did not bother to inform the drug control administration about it,” said an official privy to the inquiry report.
“The other medical officer, shown in the blood centre’s records, is a government doctor at Kauakol block in Nawada district. Similarly, one laboratory technician, shown in its records, is also an employee of a private hospital, accredited to the National Accreditation Board of Hospitals (NABH), in Patna,” said officials quoted above.
Also, the number of blood bags distributed was more than those purchased, pointing to suspicion that the blood centre used to encourage professional donors, which is illegal, said drug officials.
“The mismatch of inventory of blood bags also raised suspicion whether all blood donations were screened for infections of HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, malaria and syphilis, prior to use, thus risking human lives,” said the officials quoted above.
The blood centre, which got the licence to operate a blood centre from the Drug Controller General of India in 2020, also allegedly did not maintain any record of blood donors and recipients, which is mandatory as per blood bank safety rules. It even failed to account for the 134 units of blood the drug authorities had seized from the blood centre. Collection of blood through local blood donation camps or voluntary donation was almost negligible. It also did not furnish the list of blood recipients, said officials.
Drug officials said the blood centre staff, including its medical officer and blood technician, did not cooperate in the probe and obstructed government officials in discharging their duties.
Reached for comment, Dr Abhijeet Sinha, managing director of the Niveda hospital, where the blood centre concerned is located, said, “I am not aware of any show-cause notice issued by the state drug control authorities to the Niveda Blood Centre. I run the Niveda hospital and not the blood centre.”
Sinha parried a question about the identity of the person overseeing the Niveda blood centre, saying, “I don’t know… Ask the DI (drug inspector).”
Sinha said he would text the number of Dr Pankaj Kumar, the medical officer of the blood centre, but he did not till the filing of this report.
There are 104 licensed blood banks in Bihar of which 43 are government, six of the Red Cross and the remaining 55 private.
It is difficult to get rare blood groups, like O, AB, A and B negative.
Bihar collected 7,01,600 units (each unit of 350 ml) of blood and supplied 6,47,350 units, while 19,581 units were discarded for various reasons, as per consolidated government data of the last five years.