At Last: ban on UK blood plasma lifted

On 5 June 2021 DHSC, NHS & Treasury at last approved the Transfusion Services’ business plan for saving and exploiting recovered plasma and source plasma for fractionation. The necessary funding has been allocated for the current year and will form a routine part of the services’ public expenditure allocation(s) in the years ahead. This brings to an end the uncertainties that had persisted around this topic despite the Government’s announcement on 25 February of the partial lifting of the ban on UK donors’ plasma.  Read the full press releases at these links:

Read the full press releases at these links: Blood Plasma ban lifted  and Use of Plasma donations to treat Covid-19

Lord Owen and others have campaigned long and hard for a lifting of the ban on using UK blood plasma for immunoglobulin manufacture which is further underlined by a recent US study which suggests a slowdown in the use of convalescent plasma to treat hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the US led to a higher COVID-19 mortality.  Read a report of the John Hopkins study here and a more recent (August 2021) study of clinical trials here.

A report on the urgent need for access to treatment and trials of hyper-immune immunoglobulin and of convalescent plasma for immunodeficient or immune-compromised people is due to appear shortly in The Lancet Infectious Diseases (August/September 2021). New evidence, steadily gathering momentum, shows that hyper-immune immunoglobulin is in fact highly relevant to the prophylactic protection and efficacious treatment of a number of vulnerable patient groups – particularly in Immunology, Oncology and Neurology.

As yet, the plan still only includes Ig. However, Albumin is confidently  expected to follow shortly. Even if it doesn’t, the fractionation of UK donors’ plasma will proceed anyway. We can expect to see full fractionation achieved in due course.

When the eventual public enquiry is launched to learn lessons from the pandemic, Lord Owen plans to submit all that is relevant from his files. He is strongly of the belief there are lessons as to why this form of treatment was neglected for so long.