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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 12 February, 2003, 11:27 GMT
Safer treatment for all haemophiliacs
Some haemophiliacs received infected blood
Blood has been tested for Hep C since 1985
All people with haemophilia in England are to be provided with synthetic blood clotting products on the NHS.

Unlike blood products derived from human supplies, the synthetic version carries no risk of contamination by diseases such as vCJD, HIV or hepatitis C.

Infection by these last two has claimed the lives of more than 1,000 people with haemophilia in the UK.

Public Health Minister Hazel Blears said on Wednesday that an extra 88m was being made available over the next three years to fund the initiative.

In 1998 the government provided funding to place all haemophilia patients under 16 on synthetic clotting factors.

These patients have continued to receive synthetic products as they have grown older.

The extra funding will extend the availability of synthetic clotting products to adult haemophilia patients.

It is hoped the vast majority of patients will be receiving the new treatments by March 2006.

Genetic disorder

Haemophilia is a genetic blood condition in which an essential clotting factor is either partly or completely missing.

This means that even the most minor injury can lead to serious bleeding into the joints, muscles and soft tissues.

Haemophilia is usually treated by replacing the missing clotting factor through regular injections.

This helps the blood to clot and minimises the likelihood of long term joint damage.

For many years clotting factors used to treat people with haemophilia have been made from human blood plasma.

As a precaution against the theoretical risk from vCJD, plasma from UK donors is no longer used to make these products.

In recent years synthetic alternatives to clotting factors from human plasma have become increasingly available.

These are usually known as recombinant clotting factors and are regarded as free from the risk of blood borne infections as well as the theoretical risk from vCJD.

Welcome

Karin Pappenheim Chief Executive of the Haemophilia Society welcomed the announcement.

She said: "It shows that the government has listened to the wishes of patients with haemophilia who want the choice of being treated with synthetic recombinant, which is now seen as the safest modern treatment for this incurable bleeding disorder."

Shadow Health Secretary Dr Liam Fox said the new clotting agents should be introduced more quickly.

"I am naturally pleased that the Government has belatedly said that all patients in England will be provided with synthetic blood clotting products.

"But I am appalled by reports that suggest that even by March 2006 they will not be universally available."

"It cannot be right to expose haemophiliacs in England to a greater risk than their counterparts in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, purely to save money.

"The government must act now, not years hence, to make these products available immediately."

There are approximately 5,000 people with haemophilia in England. Of these approximately 2,200 have a severe form of the condition requiring regular treatment with clotting factors.

Approximately 700 of these are already receiving synthetic clotting agents.

In total, 4,800 people with haemophilia were infected by the hepatitis C virus from contaminated blood supplies between 1969 and 1985.

Of these, 212 people have subsequently died of liver failure caused by the infection.

Some 1,250 were infected with both hepatitis C and HIV, and 840 have since died.

See also:

28 Nov 02 | N Ireland
08 Jun 02 | Health
12 Feb 01 | Health
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