34 | Tainted Blood Scandal

Hemophilia – A disorder in which blood doesn’t clot normally. When blood can’t clot properly, excessive bleeding (external and internal) occurs after any injury or damage. Symptoms include many large or deep bruises, joint pain and swelling, unexplained bleeding, and blood in urine or stool. Treatment includes injections of a clotting factor or plasma. Est. life span before treatment – 13 years. (Mayo Clinic)

From the archives: Hemophiliacs pay a deadly price in tainted ...

Before the 1900s there was basically no treatment, but at the turn of the century blood type matching and storage were understood and patients could get whole blood transfusions. This was only moderately effective, until in 1965 Dr Judith Graham Pool at Stanford discovered concentrated clotting factors leftover after plasma transfusion. This lead to cyro-precipitate and concentrates being mass produced for Hemophiliacs, giving them a normal life.

Unfortunately due to the massive amount of blood plasma needed, drug companies went shopping for cheap blood. They found it using blood banks in low income areas and from inmates in prison. The health screening was self reported by the donors.

Blood banks started popping up in all the ‘Skid Row’ areas and prisons

HIV – The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the first few cases of HIV in 1981. A year later, the term “AIDS” was coined. Prior to more stringent blood safety measures and more sensitive tests, HIV from infected blood donors made its way into blood products. From the late 1970s to the mid-1980s, about half of all people with hemophilia became infected with HIV after using contaminated blood products. An estimated 90% of those with severe hemophilia were infected with HIV. Many developed AIDS and thousands died. (hemophilia.org)

Simple heat treating was all that was needed to destroy the virus, which was simple and effective to do. Sadly the companies did not recall the still tainted products, even sending many to England.

Up to 10,000 people got infected with HIV or Hepatitis due to this scandal, which was competently preventable with responsible pharmaceutical practices, but was not due to greed.

A great documentary to spread the word, from PBS

The patients were forced by the drug companies to accept a large scale “compassion settlement” where the corporations took no blame for the disaster, bullying the patients into taking the money by a clause that said if a meager 100 people refused the payout and attempted individual suit, they would cancel the entire payment.

Opening theme: “Rattlesnake Railroad”  – Written and Performed by Brett Van Donsel  2015 brettvandonselmusic.com

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    Episode 40