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Fresh Frozen Plasma

House of Lords written question – answered on 10th November 2003.

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Photo of Lord Clement-Jones Lord Clement-Jones Liberal Democrat

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Warner on 8 September (WA 66), whether male donors means male "untransfused" donors; and

What was the evidence that the switch to male (untransfused) donors would reduce the incidence of transfusion-related acute lung injury (as reported in the 2001–02 Serious Hazards of Transfusion Scheme report) and not lead to any new or increased levels of existing transfusion-related complications; and

With regard to a switch to male (untransfused) donors, whether they can given an assurance that this significant change in policy will be piloted and validated before a national change takes place; and

Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Warner on 8 September (WA 66) about the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Blood and Tissue for Transplantation and given that single donor fresh frozen plasma is responsible for the majority of transfusion-related acute lung injury incidents, what evidence the committee considered in reaching its recommendations to use single donor plasma only; and

Whether screening of donors' blood for human leukocyte antigens (HLA) antibodies, which cause transfusion-related acute lung injury, has been considered; if so, whether it is a viable, realistic and cost-effective option; and on what grounds nationwide screening has not been implemented; and

Whether, bearing in mind that males are less likely to donate blood and more likely to have received a transfusion than females, the use of plasma sourced exclusively from male, previously untransfused, donors will provide enough fresh frozen plasma for the 70,000 patients who require it each year.

Photo of Lord Warner Lord Warner Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health)

The safety of blood and blood products used in the National Health Service is of paramount importance. Although most United Kingdom sourced fresh frozen plasma (FFP) is not virally inactivated, high levels of safety are achieved by using single unit, as opposed to pooled plasma, by screening out potential high-risk donors and by testing every unit of donated blood for the presence of infections such as HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C before it is released to hospitals. In addition, the National Blood Authority (NBA) is conducting an options appraisal of means to minimise the risk of transfusion-related acute lung injury from FFP. The NBA is currently looking at the practicalities of producing FFP from male donors, and a plan has been produced for implementation in the new year.

The decision taken to import single unit FFP sourced from the United States for young babies and children born after 1 January 1996 will provide additional protection to the most vulnerable group who will not have been exposed to BSE through the food chain. The NBA is involved in arranging for supplies of FFP from male donors for this group of patients. A commercially produced, pooled FFP product sourced from the United States is also available for the National Health Service to purchase.

The Government's Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Blood and Tissue for Transplantation (MSBT) will continue to review the risk of new emerging viruses such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) on the blood supply. There is no evidence at present that SARS can be transmitted by blood transfusion. The minutes of MSBT meetings will be published on the Department of Health website around the end of the year.

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