translation agency

CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
CHINA: China Hemophiliacs Face Dangerous Shortage of Drug

September 18, 2007
Reuters (09.14.07) - Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Beijing News recently reported that some hemophiliacs in China have died because of a severe shortage of an effective hemophilia drug - a shortage blamed on China's efforts to clean up its unsafe blood supply. The shortage of factor 8, a protein necessary for blood clotting, has endangered tens of thousands of patients; some have died.

The shortage results from shrinking plasma supplies after the government launched a campaign in 2004 to shut down small blood collection centers and improve safety measures in the manufacture of blood-based products. Plasma made into drugs has dropped from up to 5,000 tons to less than 3,000 tons a year, the newspaper reported. Plasma procured now needs to be stored for 90 days and screened for HIV and hepatitis C.

Even large hospitals in major cities were experiencing factor 8 shortages; only three pharmaceutical companies in China are still making the drug, according to Beijing News. Dozens of hemophiliac groups have petitioned state leaders for help.

"We appeal to the government to take urgent action to import large amounts for factor 8 from abroad and save the lives of Chinese hemophilia sufferers," said a letter to President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao. The Health Ministry had vowed to allocate more plasma for factor 8 production, but it did not say whether the ban on imports of foreign-made blood products, in place since 1986 for fear of HIV, would be lifted.

Blood transfusion is still a major factor driving HIV's transmission in China. In the 1990s, Henan province became the center of China's HIV/AIDS epidemic due to blood buying by often unsanitary state-run clinics. A cluster of HIV infections was also reported in the 1990s among hemophiliacs receiving factor 8 manufactured from tainted plasma by a Shanghai company.