BRITISH haemophiliacs could be crippled by arthritis under European Community plans to stop importing Factor 8, the blood-clotting product, from outside Europe.
Doctors treating haemophiliacs, who have an inherited disorder causing them to bleed spontaneously, fear that the EC plan will result in their patients receiving less Factor 8 than they need to prevent severe arthritis.
Charles Hay, director of the Mersey Region Health Centre, which treats about 100 of the UK's 4,500 haemo philiacs, said that any reduction in the supply of Factor 8 would increase the risk of patients as young as 12 suffering crippling arthritis.
Doctors are concerned that Brussels will adopt the recommendations of two reports it commissioned on how to fulfil a 1989 directive to 'take the necessary measures to promote Community self-sufficiency in human blood or human plasma'.
Both reports suggest that the way for Europe to become self-sufficient is for countries such as Britain, with higher than average supplies of Factor 8, to help out countries such as Greece, Portugal and Spain, who have less Factor 8.
Dr Hay and David Watters, general secretary of the Haemophilia Society, believe it will mean British haemo philiacs being given Factor 8 only after a bleed has started, rather than as a prophylactic to prevent permanent damage to tissues before a bleed.
Mr Watters said: 'If the EC follows the route of self sufficiency as suggested the results could be catastrophic for people with haemophilia. Regular prophylactic treatment helps to reduce the incidence of the joint damage. If the supply of treatment was restricted then people who would otherwise have been able to lead normal lives could suffer painful and crippling arthritis.'
Dr Hay said that implementation of the recommendations threatened the freedom of doctors to give appropriate doses. Many young Spanish and Portuguese boys with haemo philia were cripples because they had not received enough Factor 8, he said.
'My concern is that if fully implemented, these recommendations would reduce the supply of Factor 8, reduce clinical freedom and probably result in a net increase in the cost of treatment because of these crippling disorders that can be caused,' he said.
Mr Watters said he agreed with the goal of self-sufficiency but said this should be achieved by maintaining or increasing supplies of Factor 8. Britain's home-produced Factor 8 is augmented by imports from the US.