Dobson issues blood plasma warning to protect patients

Click to follow
VACCINE makers were urged yesterday to avoid using UK blood products to protect patients from the "theoretical risk" of contracting the human form of mad-cow disease from contaminated blood products.

Frank Dobson, Secretary of State for Health, said the new measures were "precautionary" and insisted there was no evidence that new-variant CJD could be spread through blood.

The move was announced after advice from the UK Committee on Safety of Medicines, which has advised the Government to import plasma, the fluid in which 33 licensed blood products are derived. Mr Dobson stressed that the measures recommended by the committee are only precautionary and do not mean that UK blood and blood products are unsafe.

The plasma is derived from between 20,000 and 66,000 donations and the Government will also be extending blood product recalls to include donors being strongly "suspected" of having new variant CJD and not just recalls based on confirmed cases only.

He said: "We have no evidence to show that new variant CJD can be transmitted via blood products or blood - the risk remains only hypothetical. But we must proceed on the principle that it is better to be safe than sorry. If there is even a hypothetical risk and there are available safe alternative sources of products, then it makes sense to use them."

Mr Dobson, accepting the committee's advice, has decided that the NHS Bio Products Laboratory, part of the National Blood Service, will be allowed to import plasma to manufacture blood products.

He also announced the result of a review of the NHS's provision of the blood product Factor VIII, used to treat haemophilia. He said: "The Haemophilia Society ... have highlighted their concern about blood-borne infections. Though the risk of new variant CJD is hypothetical, nevertheless the fear of it is very real to this group, which has previously been affected by both HIV and hepatitis C transmitted from Factor VIII."