More than 30,000 infected with HIV & hepatitis C blood product UK

LONDON — Infected Blood Inquiry

More than 30,000 infected with HIV and hepatitis C in blood products scandal: UK inquiry
A report is due on the tragedy that unfolded in the 1970s and 1980s from using contaminated plasma from prisoners.

6minutes / Australian Doctor

1 May 2024

It has been described as the worst treatment disaster in the 75-year history of the UK’s NHS.

More than 30,000 people were infected with HIV and hepatitis C in the 1970s and 80s after being given contaminated blood products harvested from US prisoners.

An estimated 2900 patients died as a result.

The scandal centres on the fact that government officials had been warned at the time that the blood plasma had been harvested from inmates held in US prisons.

They included the Cummins State Farm prison in Arkansas where inmates were paid between $US5 ($7.60) and $US7 ($10.70) each time for blood plasma which was then sold for about $US100 ($152) into the drug industry supply chain.

But the approach used meant that a single batch used for patients could contain plasma harvested from 20,000 donors, obviously drastically increasing the risk of infection with bloodborne viruses.

The drug firm Bayer has already provided 7000 documents to a UK inquiry due to release its final report next month.

They show that its subsidiary, Cutter Laboratories, had warned licensing authorities back in the 1970s that its blood product Koate could ­contain viruses.

It said: “Since the presence or absence of hepatitis virus in Koate concentrate cannot be proven with absolute ­certainty the presence of such a virus should be assumed.”

Two patient groups in the UK became the unwitting victims of the scandal.

The first was haemophiliacs infected after treatments made from donated plasma were developed in the 1970s to replace the missing clotting agent Factor VIII.

The UK inquiry has been told that some 1250 patients were infected with both HIV and hepatitis C as a result, including 380 children.

Around two-thirds subsequently died of an AIDS-related illness.

A further 2400-5000 patients developed hepatitis C on its own.

The second patient cohort was those given blood transfusions after childbirth, surgery or other medical treatment.

It has been estimated that between 1970 and 1991 between 80 and 100 patients were infected with HIV, and some 27,000 with hepatitis C.

By the mid-1970s warnings were being repeatedly made that Factor VIII imported from the US carried a greater risk of viral infection.

But with attempts to make the UK more self-sufficient in blood products failing, the trade continued, even though campaigners say haemophiliacs could have been offered an alternative treatment called Cryoprecipitate.

According to the BBC, at the time this was deemed less effective and harder to administer even if it was made from the blood plasma of a single donor, lowering the infection risks.

Part of the issue was ignorance.

Even as late as November 1983, the government was insisting there was no “conclusive proof” that HIV could be transmitted in blood.

The inquiry heard testimony from many of those infected including former pupils at Treloar’s, a specialist boarding school in the UK where dozens of young haemophiliacs were infected with HIV.

In the US, companies who supplied infected products have paid out millions of dollars in out-of-court settlements.

Politicians and drug companies have been convicted of negligence in other countries, including France and Japan.

MEAG COMMENT:  But not in Australia, they all got away with it, so far.  We always believed that Australia’s contaminated blood scandal was three times worse than the UK.  So what is the true number in Australia then?  Mammoth.  God help those patients for the Australian Government didn’t and still hasn’t.

Read more: ‘Tiny risk’ of vCJD sees ban lift on UK blood donors

More information: BBC; 19 April 2024

Comments are closed.