FDA Panel Recommends Stricter Blood Donation
"To combat the spread of the human form of mad cow disease," an FDA advisory panel yesterday voted 10-7 to recommend that the agency ban blood donations from donors who have spent five or more cumulative years in Europe since 1980, or three or more cumulative months in Britain from 1980 to 1996, the Wall Street Journal reports(Carroll, Wall Street Journal, 6/29). The FDA is expected to adopt the plan as "early as next spring" (Hernandez, New York Times, 6/29). Although there is no evidence proving that mad cow disease or its human variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, can be transmitted through blood transfusions, the panel explained that it weighed the "theoretical" risk against the problems caused by reducing the nation's blood supply and ruled "on the side of caution" (Wall Street Journal, 6/29). The ban would reduce the risk of mad cow disease entering the blood supply as much as 91%, according to FDA estimates(AP/Washington Post, 6/29). The American Red Cross "praised" the panel's decision, saying it was the "prudent thing to do" in the wake of the disease spread in Europe. Red Cross Senior Vice President Jacquelyn Fredrick said that the organization "believes that you should not compromise blood safety for availability," noting that the Red Cross intends to impose "even tougher" donor restrictions beginning this fall (New York Times, 6/29).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.