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Wednesday 26th October 2016

China's blood plasma shortage

13th September 2007

Health services in China are labouring under an acute shortage of plasma protein, amid a series of revelations about fake plasma in the nation's hospitals.


The government is trying to tackle a growing number of health scandals involving substandard products with a crackdown on producers of fake vaccines and illegal blood donor centres.

Thousands of people were infected with HIV/AIDS after selling blood to state-run clinics, which reinjected them with infected red blood cells.

Leading Chinese AIDS activist Gao Yaojie, a retired gynaecologist, launched a one-woman crusade in the mid-1990s to expose the blood plasma donor business that triggered an HIV/AIDS epidemic in Henan province. It was she who found a link among a rising number of patients with AIDS: all had donated blood plasma at unsanitary collection centers, for about US$5 per donation.

Gao’s view isn’t popular in many circles, where local officials tend to report HIV infections as transmitted by intravenous drug use, making the illegal blood-trade less visible on the official record. She has been repeatedly harassed, had her phone cut off, and been held under virtual house arrest by local officials angered by her forthright style and tireless work on behalf of China’s AIDS patients and orphans.

In the early 1990s, commercial blood stations flourished in Henan. Some farmers who sold blood became infected with HIV through unclean equipment. Sellers sold blood by volume, so to reduce payments and allow farmers to recover faster, the stations often re-transfused them with red blood cells left after the valuable plasma was taken.

Now, Gao says the government-run blood-banks are closed. "But not only have the black-market blood banks not closed, they are on the increase again. Twenty-five counties in Guizhou alone are engaged in blood-selling. Recently they discovered some people in Guangzhou who had been selling their blood for 10 years, from midnight to 6 a.m.,? she said.

The State Food and Drug Administration said in a statement that most blood products manufacturers in China had injected large amounts of cash into technical renovation, and filtering techniques had been introduced from abroad.

"The inspection results show that the general situation of China's blood products and vaccine producers is good," the statement said. "The quality of blood products is guaranteed."

In June, the regulator said it had discovered fake plasma being used in at least 18 hospitals in northeastern China.

Beijing has no plans to lift a 1986 ban on the import of blood products, imposed following the spread of HIV/AIDS in the United States, to ease the shortage.


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