In the late 1970s and early 1980s, 4,800 British haemophiliacs were infected with Hepatitis C through their NHS treatment. 1,200+ of those people were also infected with HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS.

Of those 1,200, more than 800 people have already died. Hundreds more have died from Hepatitis C.

Haemophilia Hep C Infections
Haemophilia HIV / AIDS Infections

People are still dying.

Death Toll

To this day, the British Government has steadfastly refused to hold a public inquiry into this tragedy. Against overwhelming evidence, no fault has ever been admitted by either Government or the pharmaceutical companies who supplied the contaminated blood products. Those living with these horrendous infections, those loved ones who have themselves become infected through victims of this disaster, and the families of those who have died, still have no answers.

This site is dedicated to the fight for justice.

Haemophilia

Haemophilia is a genetic condition, most often hereditary, although in some cases the genetic abnormality occurs spontaneously. People with haemophilia lack, to varying degrees, the proteins Factor VIII or Factor lX which provide the body’s ability to clot blood.  This can result in internal bleeding into joints and muscles, and in more dangerous cases, into internal organs. This can result in severe pain and cause long-term problems, such as arthritis. Treatment for the condition has historically included lengthy stays in hospital, sometimes with complete bed-rest, cooling the affected area, and more recently with medical advancements the replacement of the missing ‘clotting factor’ using donor blood products, such as plasma and cryoprecipitate. Today, most clotting factors are synthesised and don’t require donor plasma.

Factor

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, haemophiliacs began using a revolutionary new product to treat their condition. ‘Factor concentrates’ were heralded as the way forward in haemophilia treatment, and profit-hungry pharmaceutical companies wasted little time in harvesting blood from the cheapest possible sources in order to make as much of the product as they could.

The Disaster

Blood products used to treat haemophilia and other bleeding disorders were known to cause viral infection during the late 1950s. Numerous warnings from experts were issued about the use of mass pooled blood products. However, these and other concerns were ignored which saw a growing number of haemophiliacs become infected with Hepatitis B (HBV). During the 1970s, fatalities related to viral infections occurred, grabbing the media’s attention. Programmes such as “World in Action” first made the public aware of the contaminated blood scandal.  This included the use of “Skid Row Donors” for remunerated plasma collection.

It was in the early 1970s when haemophiliacs first began using a revolutionary new product to treat their condition. ‘Factor concentrates’ were heralded as the way forward in haemophilia treatment, and profit-hungry pharmaceutical companies wasted little time in harvesting blood from the cheapest possible sources in order to make as much of the product as they could. With haematologists in charge, a culture of “no questions asked” emerged, leading to a pattern of non-consensual research.

The United Kingdom Haemophilia Centre Directors Organisation (UKHCDO) and government authorities had knowledge of blood being harvested for these highly profitable products across North and South America, Sub-Saharan Africa, with a blood processing facility in Rwanda, as well as other developing countries. The practice of sourcing blood from UK prisons and borstals, as well as using temporarily stationed U.S. armed forces personnel became well established through the late 1970s/early 1980s..

It was during this time that the then Secretary of State for Health, Dr, David Owen, pledged to invest several million pounds so that the “UK can become self-sufficient and blood would then come only from British sources and would be much more likely to not be contaminated” This pledge was never fulfilled, owing to the money allocated being ‘diverted to other purposes’

In fact, self-sufficiency has never been achieved in England. The safety of the blood supply, along with the plight of the haemophilia community was once again thrown into the spotlight when the latest fear of death unfolded… over 4,000 haemophiliacs and others who had received certain identified blood products were notified by letter of the implicated batches they had been given. They were then placed on the “At Risk” register for public health purposes for vCJD.

Despite numerous warnings and well documented risks of viral infections, once haemophiliacs throughout the U.K. began using these, it soon became apparent that something was very wrong. People began dying. In their haste to push out as much factor VIII and IX as possible, the pharmaceutical companies expanded their operations to source donor blood from extremely dubious places.

People referred to as “skid row derelicts” would routinely be paid for their blood. These donors, many with various infectious diseases including multiple strains of hepatitis were allowed to donate on a regular basis. “Skid row donors” included habitual drug users or those participating in homosexual activities, prostitutes, prisoners and other sources.

(see Kelly Duda’s excellent film “Factor 8: The Arkansas Prison Blood Scandal” http://www.factor8movie.com/ and WorldNetDaily’s articles here and here).

The manufacturing process saw the harvested blood combined with hundreds of others in huge vats, thus contaminating many thousands of units of factor concentrate. Even a single infective unit of blood would contaminate the entire batch. This product was then shipped around the world and given to unsuspecting haemophiliacs

It is from the use of these 100% infectious NHS-supplied blood products around the late 1970s and early 1980s, that 4,670 British haemophiliacs were infected with Hepatitis C (HCV). 1,243 were also infected with HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS. Over 2,000 British haemophiliacs have already died due to their infections.  In the case of those given HIV, only 250 or so people are still alive to date.

Data to provide accurate figures related to the multiple other infections caused by highly contaminated blood products has never been made available.

This tragedy was compounded further when a number of spouses, partners and loved ones of infected haemophiliacs also become infected. Their suffering was seen by haematologists as an opportunity to gather data which led to many people not being told that they had been infected until years after infection took place.

As heat treatment was developed in the mid-1980s, there was a noticeable increase in infectivity trials and research.  ‘Virgin Haemophiliacs’/Previously Untreated Patients’ (PUPS) were actively targeted for use in trials, with many contracting Hepatitis C.  Haemophiliacs were effectively used as guinea pigs when the AIDS crisis was well underway and its causative agent only recently identified.

The early heating process successfully killed certain viruses like HIV and Hepatitis B (HBV) but did not make the products safe. This meant for those with a severely compromised immune system, each subsequent infusion could have been fatal. No actions were taken to protect mild haemophiliacs and their partners, or to safeguard them against re-infections and re-exposures to multiple other contaminants, such as Cytomegalovirus (CMV) and Parvovirus B19.

In 1991, under threat of court action for knowingly allowing contaminated blood products into the country, the British Government made ex-gratia payments to those infected with HIV, upon the condition that haemophiliacs would sign an undertaking, in form of a waiver, not to sue the Government for any future infection through their treatments. The so called ‘compassionate payments’ were made in respect of a projected life span of sufferers of three to five years, and were forced upon patients who were told that “if you don’t drop the legal action and accept this money, no-one will get anything… people are dying, they need it”.

Shortly afterwards, it emerged that these very same people were also infected with Hepatitis C (HCV), and that this information had been withheld from them until they had signed the undertaking. Secretly tested in 1988 using an unlicenced test, many people did not find out about either infection until years after they occurred. Parliament defined the HIV infected haemophiliacs as “unique” due partly to the serious nature of their underlying condition which was exacerbated by their infections.

Since 1991 the haemophilia community has seen deaths at the rate of at least one a month. Governments of all parties have compounded the suffering of the victims created by the state by putting in place support schemes which have been described by politicians, the Haemophilia Society and campaigners as not fit for purpose. This resulted in many victims being forced to rely on state benefits.  Some feel that they have been forced to justify their need for support to the very bodies that inflicted the hardship upon them in the first place. We have heard many testimonies from haemophiliacs regarding deteriorating quality of life, mental health and overall self-worth due to being made to feel like beggars.

In more recent times with the development of more specific tests for virus genotyping, the unique status of haemophiliacs was reinforced yet again.  It became clear that they had been exposed to multiple genotypes of Hepatitis C, including genotype 4 which, at that time, was exclusive to Sub-Saharan Africa. This implicates the Rwandan processing plant and demonstrates how life-threatening pathogens can be transported around the world.

 

In retrospect, the Government and the pharmaceutical companies were clearly banking upon none of their victims remaining alive long enough to fight for justice. For over thirty years campaigners, politicians and the Haemophilia Society have consistently called for a public inquiry into the scandal, but the British Government has steadfastly refused. Against overwhelming evidence, no fault has ever been admitted by either Government or the pharmaceutical companies who supplied the contaminated blood products. Those victims still living with their multiple infections are both physically and mentally ravaged by what has been done to them. Many feel that what has happened constitutes a crime – one which has never been properly addressed or investigated.  TaintedBlood is ready and willing to assist with any investigation or inquiry.

People are still dying. Out of the original 1,243 infected with both HIV and Hepatitis C, only around 250 remain alive today, representing a mortality rate of approximately 80%.

 

TaintedBlood: Using the voices of the past to protect the children of the future.

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