Federal Blood Safety Committee Reviews Donor Deferral Rules
On June 10 and 11, 2010, the Department of Health and Human Services' Advisory Committee on Blood Safety and Availability (ACBSA) convened to review the current indefinite blood donation deferral for men who have had sex with another man (MSM) since 1977 to determine whether the policy should be changed. Examining current scientific knowledge, societal factors, and economic implications, the committee determined that the available data are inadequate to make a change in the current policy. It recommended more research be done before making a more informed decision in the future.
A-PLUS, the American Plasma Users Coalition, a group of patient organizations whose members include the National Hemophilia Foundation, the Hemophilia Federation of America, the Committee of Ten Thousand, presented testimony. It argued that any change to current policy should be based on science, and that there was not enough evidence to suggest that a change would not increase risk.
By a vote of 9-6, the ACBSA recommended no change to the FDA regulation of indefinite deferral for MSM. The committee acknowledged the current deferral polices are suboptimal in permitting some potentially high-risk donations, while preventing some potentially low-risk donations. It then unanimously agreed to a series of recommendations on needed research, including modifying the donor questionnaire to better differentiate low- vs. high-risk MSM and heterosexual behaviors, and determining the feasibility of donor pre-testing.
While a policy change may not be imminent, the blood donor system continues to evolve. NHF will continue to ensure the safety of the nation's blood supply and will keep the community informed of any changes in policy at the federal level.