UK blood supplies to be used to make life-saving drug
Plasma from blood donations in England will be used to make a vital medicine, following a rule change to reduce reliance on imported stocks.
Each year about 17,000 people need immunoglobulin treatment and, until recently, there was a ban on using plasma from UK donors to safeguard against vCJD or “mad cow disease”.
Officials say this precaution is no longer necessary.
A mother and son from the Wirral are among those to have had the treatment.
Kes Earl, now 24, whose son Trevor is two, said: “Immunoglobulins saved my family.”
“Plasma is the reason I have two healthy little boys that keep me on my toes.
I am so happy that plasma from blood donors is now being be used for immunoglobulins,
to help make sure there’s enough available.”
The move will help secure NHS plasma stocks to make the antibody-based medicines, called immunoglobulins.
Rollout of the service will happen across England over the coming months, and NHS blood donor services elsewhere in the UK could opt to do the same.
Currently, the UK relies solely on plasma imports, which can be in short supply – a situation made worse by Covid.
- Boy kept alive by blood plasma donations
Gerry Gogarty, from NHS Blood and Transplant, welcomed the decision, calling it a huge step forward.
“By recovering plasma from blood donations, we can improve long-term supplies of immunoglobulin medicine, and each generous blood donation will go even further in helping to save the lives.”
The red blood cells from donations will continue to be used as normal, so there will be no impact on donor blood stocks. Plasma is the fluid and other cells and components of whole blood.
“Your blood is mostly made up of plasma and it contains the antibodies which fight infections. Those antibodies can save the lives of people with faulty immune systems,” he said.
Trevor was born with neonatal alloimmune thrombocytopenia – a dangerous condition caused by his mum’s immune system attacking his blood.
He received the urgent treatment in neonatal intensive care.
Kes went on to have immunoglobulin herself during her second pregnancy, to prevent the same condition happening to her younger son Wyatt.
“Plasma is the reason I have two healthy little boys that keep me on my toes. I am so happy that plasma from blood donors is now being be used for immunoglobulins, to help make sure there’s enough available,” said Kes.
The treatment can be used to help patients who cannot make antibodies themselves, or in circumstances where their bodies are not making enough antibodies, or the ones they are making don’t work properly, as well as for disorders when the body’s immune system is attacking itself.