Saturday, February 21, 2009

Thousands exposed to infection through clotting products

Thousands of patients with the bleeding disorder haemophilia have been exposed to successive viruses through treatment with clotting products made from donor blood and 1,757 have since died.

An independent inquiry, chaired by former solicitor general Lord Archer of Sandwell, is due to report on Monday into the contamination of blood and products made using blood.

In the 1970s and 1980s blood derivatives were sourced from within the UK and from the USA where donors were paid and often funded their drug habit through the payments. Blood was later found to be infected with Hepatitis C and later HIV and thousands became infected through using the products.

Successive governments have failed to acknowledge any fault and compensation has so far been limited to 'ex gratia payments', Lord Archer of Sandwell said at the opening of the inquiry in March 2007.

The inquiry is expected to recommend that further compensation payments be made to those who have contracted viruses and the families of those who have since died.

The report will also point to the new danger to haemophiliacs of vCJD as they may have been given products contaminated with the human form of mad cow disease before the 1998 ruling that all clotting factors should be sourced from outside the UK.

Earlier this week the Health Protection Agency confirmed the death of the first haemophiliac to have contracted vCJD from contaminated blood although this did not cause his death. The donor died six months after giving blood in 1996.

All patients with bleeding conditions were told in 2004 that they were at risk of having contracted vCJD from contaminated products that were administered between 1980 and 2001.

The inquiry was set up by Lord Morris of Manchester, who is president of the Haemophilia Society, who has fought for better treatment of patients infected with contaminated blood products for a number of years.

Former health minister Dr Lord Owen has given evidence along with patients, doctors and advocates.

In 1998 the Department of Health announced that plasma for clotting factors would be sourced from outside the UK and synthetic products were introduced for all patients in Scotland and Wales, but these were restricted to children under 16 only in England.

One of the patients who contracted hepatitis C through infected products, campaigner Peter Mossman, said: "I hope the inquiry will draw a line under this. We are all tired and what it over with."

The patients gave evidence that they have faced financial hardship since becoming infected with many becoming too ill to work and they have argued they cannot get health insurance because of their condition.


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