FDA Considers Widening Blood Donor Ban
Due to concerns about the spread of mad-cow disease through blood supplies, the FDA is considering banning people who have spent time anywhere in Europe from donating blood, the Wall Street Journal reports. Officials did not say how much time spent in Europe would disqualify donors or which years would apply. Currently, the donor ban includes people who have spent six months or more in the United Kingdom between 1980 and 1996. Earlier this year, the American Red Cross decided to impose a ban on donors who had spent six months since 1980 in any European country or a total of three months in the United Kingdom. According to an FDA spokesperson, the proposed expansion of the donor ban is just one of the ideas the FDA is considering to prevent mad cow disease from spreading through blood. The spokesperson added that the FDA will issue a draft "guidance" -- statement of FDA policy -- to blood centers and representatives on the subject. If the FDA decides on the wider ban, the decision "would run contrary to the recommendation" an advisory panel made in January. At the time, the panel favored restricting potential donors who had spent time in Ireland, Portugal and France. The Journal reports that a Europe-wide ban "could significantly affect the U.S. blood supply" and products made from blood, such as clotting agents. Speaking against the ban, Jan Bult, president of the Protein Plasma Therapeutics Association, said that scientific studies do "not support exclusion of all European donors." Community blood center network America's Blood Centers said it would support the FDA's decision, but remains concerned that a Europe-wide ban would cause the network to lose about 10% of its supply. Both the network and the Red Cross said they plan to "intensify donor recruitment" in anticipation of the wider ban (Carroll, Wall Street Journal, 5/21).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.