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BSI response to the Government lifting a ban on UK blood plasma use for treatments

25 February 2021

The Government has lifted a ban on UK-sourced blood plasma being used in the manufacture of life-saving medicines. In response, the British Society for Immunology has released the following statement:

The British Society for Immunology welcomes the announcement from the Government that it is removing the ban on UK-sourced blood plasma for the manufacture of immunoglobulins. This move will have a positive impact on thousands of UK patients who rely on these products to keep well and healthy.

Immunoglobulins are antibodies that come from blood plasma donated by the public. They are used to treat people who are very immunosuppressed – for example people with antibody deficiencies or those on long-term cancer treatment.  A ban on the use of immunoglobulins from blood donated in England was introduced in 1998 following concerns around Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease. The Commission on Human Medicines (CHM) have now issued new advice that it is safe to use UK-sourced plasma to manufacture immunoglobulins. This move is supported by robust safety and monitoring measures.

The British Society for Immunology has been working on this issue with a coalition of partners in a group called UK Plasma Action led by David McIntosh (former Chairman and General Manager of the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service) and comprised of representatives from several professional and patient organisations including UK Primary Immunodeficiency Network, Primary Immunodeficiency UK, UK Primary Immunodeficiency Patient Support and the Immunology and Allergy Nurses Group. Today’s decision is an important move forward for patients, many of whom are reliant on these therapies.  Due to the need to source immunoglobulin products from abroad, there had been severe problems sourcing enough of these products over several years.   The move to allow immunoglobulins to be manufactured from plasma donated in the UK means that there will be a more secure supply of these vital therapies for patients to allow them to stay well and healthy.

The BSI would like to thank David McIntosh and the other members of UK Plasma Action for their concerted and successful effort in raising the profile of this important issue to policymakers.

Read the full press release from the Department of Health and Social Care here.