HL Deb 29 July 2002 vol 638 cc140-1WA
Baroness Masham of Ilton

asked Her Majesty's Government:

In view of the Committee on Safety of Medicines' decision and guidance issued in 1998 not to recommend the use of United Kingdom-sourced plasma in the manufacture of blood derivative products due to the unknown and theoretical risk of vCJD, why 50–70,000 patients per year are still being treated with transfusion plasma derived from United Kingdom donors, and [HL5083]

Why their ongoing consideration of ways to improve the safety of transfusion plasma administered by the National Health Service has not been referred to the National Institute for Clinical Excellence for independent and evidence-based appraisal of the available plasmas; and whether they plan to do so. [HL5082]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

There is no evidence that Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease or variant CJD has ever been transmitted to patients through blood or blood products. Since 1998 the Government have acted on expert advice from the Committee on Safety of Medicines to minimise the unknown risk to patients of vCJD by sourcing plasma for the manufacture of licensed blood products from the United States and Germany.

The United Kingdom Expert Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Blood and Tissues for Transplantation (MSBT) is actively reviewing other possible ways in which the unknown risk from vCJD in blood might be reduced even further. This includes the importation of transfusion plasma known as fresh frozen plasma (FFP) (used in managing patients with severe burns, massive blood loss and supporting intensive care unit patients); the possible exclusion of people who have received blood transfusions from giving blood and work on reducing the plasma component of blood platelets. The review involves detailed risk assessments about the possible impact of such measures on secondary transmission of vCJD and the impact on the UK blood supply. In the case of FFP, the review is looking at the need for confidence in the viral inactivation techniques used for non-UK plasma and the availability of sustainable supplies. Decisions on some of these measures will be taken later this year.

These issues have not been referred to the National Institute of Clinical Excellence as the membership of MSBT is set up specifically to look at blood safety issues and seeks specialist advice or includes the relevant specialists among its members.