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From: TSS (wt-d6-140.wt.net)
Subject: vCJD -- Lord Morris of Manchester To ask Her Majesty's Government (blood)
Date: October 29, 2004 at 8:30 am PST

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: vCJD -- Lord Morris of Manchester To ask Her Majesty's Government (blood)
Date: Fri, 29 Oct 2004 10:35:45 -0500
From: "Terry S. Singeltary Sr."
To: Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy


vCJD

Lord Morris of Manchester: My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question
standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I declare an
interest, not a pecuniary one, as president of the Haemophilia Society.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many people have already been
warned or could eventually be warned by the Department of Health
that they may be at risk of developing vCJD as a result of
National Health Service treatment.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord
Warner): My Lords, in England 15 recipients of whole blood were notified
in December 2003 of their possible increased risk of variant CJD. For
recipients of plasma products, the patient notification exercise started
on 21 September, and will run for a few months. Patient records are
being examined currently. Until completed, it is not possible to say how
many more people will be notified as a result of this exercise.

Lord Morris of Manchester: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend.
Is he aware just how devastating this deadly further threat has been to
the haemophilia community, already mourning 1,000 deaths from HIV and
hepatitis C infection by contaminated NHS blood products, and both
deeply hurt and offended by the total denial of any financial help for
families bereaved by hepatitis C infection?

We are told nobody is to blame for the disaster. But how can this be
validated, except by an independent inquiry and how, without one, shall
we ever know

28 Oct 2004 : Column 1396

whether the risk of vCJD would have been reduced had the safer
recombinant treatment been available for all haemophilia patients in
1995? Is there not now a compellingly urgent need for a wide-ranging
public inquiry into this worst-ever treatment disaster in the history of
the NHS?

Lord Warner: My Lords, I recognise what my noble friend says. This
exercise causes further anxiety for a group of people for whom everybody
in this House has enormous sympathy. We have undertaken this tracing
exercise in full consultation with the Haemophilia Society, to which I
pay tribute for all its help. I am afraid that we must accept that there
is a great deal of scientific uncertainty about variant CJD and no
consensus among experts on assessing the risks to those patients who
have received potentially contaminatedI emphasise "potentially"batches
of plasma. The Government have been transparent in their actions and in
putting information on variant CJD in the public arena and before
Parliament, and we will continue to do so. Wrongful practices have not
been employed; we do not believe that a public inquiry is justified.

Lord Walton of Detchant: My Lords, does the Minister accept that the
agent responsible for the transmission of both sporadic and new variant
CJD is neither a bacterium nor a virus but an abnormal molecule of
protein called a prion? Does he therefore accept that the presumed
discovery of transmission of that agent by blood transfusion was both
unexpected and alarming? No diagnostic or screening test exists at
present, although recently Stanley Prusiner, Nobel prize-winner for his
work on prions, suggested that one may be impending. Nevertheless, is it
not crucial, as the noble Lord, Lord Morris, has said, that recombinant
factor 8 should be made widely available throughout the NHS for all
haemophilia sufferers?

Lord Warner: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his remarks,
given his great expertise in this area of medicine and science. It is
certainly true that, as yet, there is no blood test for variant CJD, let
alone one that could detect the disease years before symptoms develop.
We accept the need to make progress on recombinant products but we will
do so in an orderly way. I can write to the noble Lord with details of
our progress.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, what sort of financial assistance is
available in those 1,000 cases to which the noble Lord referred?
Obviously, many families will have been devastated by those deaths.

Lord Warner: My Lords, this Question is about variant CJD and a tracing
exercise. The noble Lord, Lord Morris, introduced the issue of hepatitis
C, which we have debated in this House on several occasion but that is
outside the scope of this Question. I will write to the noble Lord with
details on hepatitis C and the other issues that he mentioned.

Baroness Neuberger: My Lords, in agreeing that, obviously, considerable
distress has been caused to all

28 Oct 2004 : Column 1397

those who have received the letters, will the Minister now consider
whether something particular should be done for the younger people who
may be affected? There is growing evidence that younger people are more
susceptible to variant CJD than older ones. Growing evidence,
particularly from some French scientists, shows that of the cases in the
UK a disproportionate number of younger people and teenagers have been
affected. Is the Minister prepared to consider specific counselling for
younger people among those who have received a letter warning them of
the possible risk?

Lord Warner: My Lords, the exercise for tracing people who, I
re-emphasis, are potentially at risk of having received possibly
contaminated plasma products is being conducted through the Health
Protection Agency and, perhaps more significantly, through the 150
clinicians who are treating those with haemophilia and bleeding
disorders. They are best placed to advise their patientsthey know their
patientson how to respond and to present this information of risk to
them. I emphasise that we are talking about products that are
potentially contaminated. The 176 batches of plasma products that have
been traced are all the result of further dilution of any contaminated
blood that has been injected into those batches. It makes risk
assessment in this area extraordinarily difficult. There is no consensus
among experts on the risk.

Earl Howe: My Lords, the Minister will know that, as part of the
Government's precautionary approach, it was decided that all people who
have received a blood transfusion since 1980 are banned from giving
blood. What official assessment has been made of the effect of that
ruling on the number of people now able to donate blood, and is there
any threat to blood supplies?

Lord Warner: My Lords, taking a proportion of donors and potential
donors out of the supply chain has some impact. But the Government have
gone to great lengths to ensure that we have an adequate blood supply.
One of the measures that we have been taking, in full consultation with
the medical and other health professions, is how we make best use of the
blood supply that we have. Over the years, there has been concern that
we may have inappropriately used some of our blood supply. We are taking
measures with experts to ensure that our available blood supply is used
efficiently.

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/

TSS





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