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Bad Blood Products Endanger Patients' Lives

Contaminated blood products remain one of the major channels for spreading HIV/AIDS in China, and many hemophilia patients have been diagnosed with the deadly virus after using a blood coagulation factor produced by Shanghai Institute of Biological Products. Some have died.

The shocking news is that China's common blood products are not under germ "inactivate treatment" at all, though relevant regulation was issued in 1995 by the Ministry of Health.

Blood factor is used in the treatment of hemophilia, a disease that makes the patient's blood difficult to clot. In the early 1980s, when acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) was first detected, there was no screening test for the HIV virus, to prevent it from contaminating blood products.

China Sodality of Hemophilia, a non-governmental organization, spontaneously founded by hemophilia patients, have recent statistics showing that four hemophilia patients from Guangdong and 54 from Shanghai, who had taken Lyophilized Human Coagulation Factor (LHCF VIII) produced by Shanghai Institute of Biological Products, were confirmed as infected with HIV.

In an interview with Shanghai Daily in December, Yang Shaogang, who also acts as a counselor for the city government, said 55 local hemophilia patients have since contracted AIDS. Their families suspect they caught HIV after using LHCF VIII.

Another test carried out in December 2003 in Guangdong Province indicates that among the 28 hemophilia patients who received the test, seven were infected with hepatitis C, but no one has HIV.  

The result is far from optimistic, anyway, according to Huang Zikai, vice director of the sodality. So far, there is no overall test covering the whole province of Guangdong and some patients have died with unknown reasons.

In China, LHCF VIII was once considered as an expensive medicine for most patients. During a long period, LHCF VIII served as an effective and trustful medicine among hemophilia patients, many even depending on it. However, after taking the medicine for a period, many patients began to show symptoms such as frequent fever, loss of hair and weight, pneumonia and abscess. Then they were detected to have HIV.

Mr. Kang, a man from Changsha, capital city of Hunan Province, has sued the Shanghai Institute of Biological Products for its unsecured blood product. He claimed he was infected with HIV and hepatitis after taking LHCF VIII, and the institute intentionally covered up the information. He asks for a compensation of 1 million yuan.

Kang believes that since the manufacturing process did not include germ elimination and inactivate treatment, the LHCF VIII he used is a high-risk medicine to spread the deadly infectious diseases. Following Kang's suit, four other patients from Jilin, Liaoning and Hunan provinces have also sued the Shanghai Institute of Biological Products. The Shanghai People's Court of Changning District is now handling their cases.

To help local victims, the Shanghai government and philanthropy organizations provide free medical treatment and a monthly subsidy of 1,000 yuan (US$121.07) since 2003.

China's coagulant and other blood products were manufactured without germ and virus elimination process and inactivate treatment, until July 1995 when the Ministry of Health issued its Document No. 5 to forbid the use of such products, claiming that they “may spread diseases like HIV, Hepatitis B and C.

It is known that the latent period of the onset of AIDS is five to ten years. If a hemophilia patient took the tainted blood product before 1996 and was infected with the HIV virus, he is at high risk of the onset of AIDS now.

It is reported that in China, 95 percent of patients chose plasma and other cheaper blood products that have no inactivate treatments.

Another problem is the "window period." This is the name used for the period from the time patients come in contact with HIV to developing antibodies, a period of usually two weeks to six months but no longer than a year. Due to that fact that all donated blood plasma in China is not under a supervisory inactivation process, doctors are in no position to clear "bad blood."

Jiang Chaofu, president of Guangzhou Blood Center, said, "Since 1993, every year, HIV-infected blood is detected." In 2002, among 250,000 donated blood samples, 32 were HIV-infected. Jiang also said that, although the LHCF VIII that was produced after 1996 was safer because it had been inactivated, other donated blood is still at high risk of dangerous disease and harder to control.

The danger of bad blood lingers on.

Hemophilia: Any of several hereditary blood-coagulation disorders in which the blood fails to clot normally because of a deficiency or an abnormality of one of the clotting factors. Hemophilia, a recessive trait associated with the X-chromosome, is manifested almost exclusively in males.

(China.org.cn by Li Liangdu, January 16, 2004)

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