Possible Blood Donation Restrictions Worry Blood Banks
The FDA's consideration of greater restrictions on blood donations from people who may have contracted the human version of mad cow disease in Europe has blood banks worrying about possible shortages, the Wall Street Journal reports. The FDA currently bans blood donations from individuals who lived in the United Kingdom for a total of at least six months between 1980 and 1996. But the recent reappearance in Europe of mad cow disease and its human version, new-variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, has FDA officials weighing further restrictions. FDA advisers will decide whether to extend the ban at a two-day meeting beginning this Thursday, and the Journal reports that what they will recommend is "[un]clear." While no cases of the disease have been reported in the U.S., "research is emerging that suggests the disease can be transmitted through blood," the Journal reports.
Blood banks warn that additional restrictions would make it difficult to replace the blood of "repeat donors" such as military members, employees of multinational companies and students. The Journal reports that the New York Blood Center -- which supplies "about 8%" of U.S. blood -- receives 25% of its red blood cells from FDA-licensed donation sites in Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands. NYBC president and CEO Robert Jones said that if these supplies were reduced significantly, "that would create a medical emergency" in the U.S. But Peter Lurie, a member of the FDA advisory committee and deputy director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group, said the blood industry was "overreacting," as a "government-funded" study has showed that the United Kingdom ban decreased donations by less than 1%. Blood banks contend that this figure does not account for individuals who were dissuaded from giving blood after hearing about the "widely publicized ban" (Lueck, Wall Street Journal, 1/16).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.