[EDITORIALS]Mishandling blood suppliesFollowing a report that two patients in their 60s who received transfusions of blood donated by an AIDS patient were infected with the HIV virus, it is shocking to learn that blood from the same source was used for pharmaceutical products. A company produced some 3,000 bottles of albumin from blood plasma originating from the same source, and another company was producing immune globin with it. They disposed of it after learning from the National Institute of Health that the blood was contaminated.
It is a problem that the institute, though it received the final test result in May, only informed the companies two months later. It makes us dizzy to imagine that the products were sold and taken by patients. The institute says they were safe, as the blood plasma was sterilized before being processed to make albumin. But 16 people infected with AIDS filed suit against a pharmaceutical company, claiming, “The hemophilia treatment drug made from AIDS-contaminated blood infected us with it.” Therefore, it is difficult to take what the institute says at face value.
Moreover, it was found that a confidential document contained details of the blood donor and two transfusion victims. The paper was prepared by the institute on Aug. 14 and sent to the Red Cross blood bank. So, one of the two leaked it. This is an additional problem. Such indifference to the violation of other people’s basic rights, and to ethical standards, is deplorable.
In Korea, there are more than 2,000 AIDS patients, and every day an average of 1.4 new patients are infected. As the AIDS management system of the medical authority is falling behind, overall restructuring is unavoidable. To reduce infection from transfusion, the time needed to determine whether the blood is infected or not should be reduced from the present three or four weeks to two or three weeks.
As in the European Union, pharmaceutical firms should be obligated to keep blood plasma for three to six months before they process it. To restore confidence in AIDS management, the government should produce comprehensive measures soon.