logo logo

Keep the FTA away from our plasma

Bendigo Advertiser, Australia

Keep the FTA away from our plasma

25 April 2006

IT has been several years since my last donation, but yesterday I did my part towards saving someone’s life.

I called the Bendigo-based Australia Red Cross blood bank, went up and contributed 470 mL of blood.

The blood will of course go through all the usual checks and tests necessary to protect those receiving it.

It will be tested for a host of diseases, namely HIV 1 and 2, Hepatitis B and C, HTLV 1 and 2, and syphilis. Once deemed clear, it will be added to the much-needed stores of valuable blood required daily throughout Australia.

Modern processing techniques mean the blood can be separated into its various components and can make up to 20 different products. Hence, each donation can potentially help up to three different people.

However, with the recent announcement of the Federal Government’s review into the arrangements for fractionating (or manufacturing) plasma collected from Australian donors for plasma products for use in hospitals, Australian Red Cross Blood Service chief executive officer Dr Robert Hetze has called for calm.

The review is being undertaken as part of the government’s commitments under the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement, and will consider whether this fractionation process should be opened up to competition as part of the Free Trade Agreement.

Presently, all plasma collected by the ARCBS is sent to Australian company CSL Limited, where it is fractionated in specific-use containers to ensure the best possible safety profile.

Dr Hetze said the ARCBS would be concerned if this changed and Australian plasma was shipped offshore for fractionation. This possibility, he said, raises many questions concerning safety and quality of the plasma products.

What possible rationale could there be for introducing competition into a system that, to date, has provided one of the safest blood systems in the world?