The Story So Far

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  • In the 1970s and 1980s the Department of Health bought blood and blood products from the US where intravenous drug users, prostitutes and prison inmates were paid to donate blood known to carry a high risk of infection.
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The eighties

Department of Health continued to import high risk, US blood

Throughout the 1980s the Department of Health continued to import blood and blood products from the US and even condoned the collection of blood from prisons and borstal institutions in the UK right up until March 1984 despite repeated warnings about the risks of infection with hepatitis. At that time, the Hepatitis C virus had still not been identified and was known as hepatitis non-A non-B. It is now known that, in the 70s and early 80s, around 98% of UK haemophiliacs treated with human blood products were infected with Hepatitis C. Because the symptoms of HCV infection can be vague in the early years, a large proportion of these people were unaware of their infection. Many of the victims now report that they consulted doctors at that time with a variety of symptoms, now known to be caused by HCV, but were sent away feeling like hypochondriacs.

HIV emerges

In the mid 80s, HIV emerged and it was clear that haemophiliacs were succumbing to this, in addition to various strains of hepatitis. It was not until then that, in an attempt to prevent HIV, heat treatment was first used. The Government claim that it was not known until then that this process could have prevented Hepatitis C infection, yet the technique was first used by Army-financed scientists in the US back in the 1940s. The technique was not perfected until 1983 for blood-clotting products used by haemophiliacs, but there was another option available as early as 1980, when a former Baxter scientist patented a solvent detergent treatment process for viral inactivation of factor concentrate. This method of eliminating infection was turned down by the US pharmaceutical companies. Why was this allowed to happen? Why did they wait until the emergence of HIV before perfecting the technique of heat treating? Why was it considered OK for people to die from hepatitis until the emergence of HIV?

No assistance for hepatitis sufferers

In 1988 the Government agreed funding for the Macfarlane Trust charity to assist haemophiliacs who contracted HIV from contaminated blood products, but no financial assistance was given to hepatitis victims. The Government refused to hold an inquiry and/or pay out fair compensation.