Posted on: 19/03/21

Thousands of NHS patients are set to benefit from new, innovative medicines made from plasma as the UK government removes the ban on UK-sourced blood plasma for the manufacture of immunoglobulins.

The ban on UK-sourced blood plasma has been in place since 1998, however, expert scientists have protested for years that the UK government lifts the ban so that more critically ill patients can benefit from lifesaving treatments.

blood donation

Since the 1990s, the UK has been dependent on blood plasma imported from other countries – in particular, the USA, in order to manufacture these specialist treatments. Due to the increasing global demand for immunoglobulins, the US has experienced ongoing pressure to supply the UK with sufficient stocks.

In addition, the impact of COVID-19 in the USA has meant that there has been a significant drop in plasma donations, thus causing further supply and stock implications.

Lifting the ban on UK plasma use will bolster the UK’s supply chain and improve our self-sufficiency in producing our own treatments. The government also plans to introduce a condition which will ensure UK plasma is only used to treat UK patients and is not exported. 

NHS Blood and Transplant currently collects around 350,000 litres of plasma each year as part of its ‘whole blood donations’ for hospitals. Of the 350,000 litres collected, only 100,000 is used for transfusions. Due to the ban, the remaining 250,000 litres of plasma is discarded as it cannot be used to manufacture medicines. 

Speaking about lifting the ban, Betsy Bassis, Chief Executive at NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), said: “We are so pleased that our donors’ gifts will now be able to save and improve even more lives in the years ahead. This is an exciting day for donors and patients alike.”

As NHSBT collects ‘whole blood donations’, generous donators will not need to give more blood, instead, all parts of their blood will be used.

If you are interested in learning about how to donate, please visit the following websites for more information:

England: https://www.blood.co.uk/

Wales: https://www.welsh-blood.org.uk/giving-blood/

Northern Ireland: https://nibts.hscni.net/

Scotland: https://www.scotblood.co.uk/