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Bad blood over FTA

The Australian, Canberra

Bad blood over FTA

Sean Parnell

16 May 2006

Australia’s monopoly blood processor, CSL, has backed Red Cross calls for a ban on plasma imports and warned against opening up the nation’s supply network to overseas companies.

CSL opposes amendments to Australia’s free trade agreement with the US that would allow American companies to process plasma from Australian donors in overseas facilities.

It questions "contingency measures" that import 18per cent of the nation’s intravenous immuniglobulin (IVIg), used for an increasing number of medical conditions and in high demand.

The National Blood Authority, which manages Red Cross blood collection and CSL’s processing contract with the federal Government, has imported IVIg to avoid total reliance on CSL.

But CSL, desperate to retain its contract, used its submission to a review of the proposed FTA amendment to argue Australia could again be self-sufficient in its blood supply, even IVIg.

The Red Cross has argued that with adequate government funding, it could collect enough donor plasma to reach self-sufficiency. It has raised concerns about products imported from overseas companies that operate in different regulatory environments and source blood from paid donors.

But a Health Department spokeswoman said domestic demand for IVIg had risen 220per cent over the past 10 years and, while CSL could process it, the Red Cross was struggling to collect enough donor plasma.