Wednesday, December 15, 2010

FDA bans CFS patients from donating blood

By AMY DOCKSER MARCUS, The Wall Street Journal:

An advisory committee to the federal Food and Drug Administration is recommending that people with chronic fatigue syndrome be barred from donating blood, amid concerns a retrovirus may be linked to the disease.

The panel voted Tuesday 9 to 4 that the FDA should require a screening question to ask potential donors if they have a medical history of chronic fatigue syndrome and, if so, exclude them from donating.

The recommendation by the panel must now be reviewed by the FDA, which typically follows the advice of such panels but is not required to do so. An FDA spokeswoman said there was no timetable yet on a final decision.

The panel's recommendation is a significant milestone for patients, who have often felt maligned by the medical community. The syndrome, which affects over one million people in the U.S., is diagnosed based on symptoms that include severe pain, debilitating fatigue and cognitive difficulties.

The AABB, an umbrella group comprising centers and groups that collect most of the nation's blood supply, recommended in August that until the scientific questions are worked out, people with chronic fatigue syndrome should be discouraged from donating blood. The American Red Cross, which collects about 50% of the nation's blood supply, has been asking potential blood donors since October to say whether they have the condition and bars such patients from giving.

The panel's recommendation, if adopted by the FDA, goes a step further because it would include a question about diagnosis as part of the screening questionnaire that donors must answer before giving blood. The FDA regulates the nation's blood supply and so its decision would cover all blood centers.

The decision isn't expected to have ... Read more>>

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