London reauthorizes UK plasma in drugs, 23 years after mad cow disease

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LONDON | The British government announced on Thursday to re-authorize the use of British-sourced blood plasma in the manufacture of life-saving treatments, 23 years after banning it over fears of the human form of mad cow disease .

“Following expert advice, I am happy that we can now lift this ban, which will help thousands of patients access potentially life-saving treatments faster,” the Secretary of State for Health said in a statement. James Bethell, affirming that England could thus “become self-sufficient” in the matter. Scotland has taken the same step.

Until now, the country has depended on the import of blood plasmas – especially from the United States – to manufacture certain drugs, used mainly by people with extremely reduced immune systems (antibody deficiency, long-term cancer treatment , etc.)

This news comes at the right time, as global demand for plasma – under constant pressure in recent years – has increased further with the COVID-19 pandemic, due to a “significant drop in donations in the United States” .

“The government will also introduce a new provision to ensure that British plasma is used primarily for British patients and not exported elsewhere,” the statement said.

The United Kingdom in 1998 banned the use of any British blood plasma in the manufacture of medicines, fearing the spread of Creutzfeld-Jacob disease, a human variant of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), otherwise known as mad cow disease.

According to experts from the Independent Commission for Human Medicines (CHM), the use of this plasma of British origin is now “safe and can resume thanks to a set of solid security measures”, it is specified in the press release, after a comprehensive review launched by the British Health Agency (MHRA) at the end of 2020.

Each year, the British Public Health Service (NHS) collects around 350,000 liters of blood plasma from hospitals, of which 100,000 liters are used for transfusions.

Until now, the remaining 250,000 liters of donations had been thrown away, which could not be used to manufacture drugs, as other countries usually do with their stocks.

“We are very happy that the donations of our donors can now save lives and improve them even more in the years to come,” said Betsy Bassis, Executive Director of the Blood and Transplantation branch of the NHS.