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Magna Carta - 15th June, 1215

 
No of entries selected: 12 of 711
1981
December
Lancet
The Lancet reports first UK case of AIDS in a homosexual.
Source: Haemophiliac HIV Litigation, Advice on Settlement Document, Appendix 1, Chronology, pp 56-58.
Type: Lancet Report
Location: UK
1982
June
Dr E. Harris, DCMO - Awareness of Possibility of AIDS Transmission via Human Plasma
In a confidential DHSS circular of June 1982: "British Plasma-derived Vaccine against Hepatitis B" we learn that the author of the document, the Department's Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Ed. Harris, was fully aware of the possibility of AIDS transmission via human plasma. It should be noted that this was in June 1982...

"Doubts have been raised now about the project, triggered by difficulties with the inactivation process necessary to render any such vaccine non-infective from free virus and by recent concern over the possibility of transmission of AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) via the human plasma from which the vaccine is derived."

We can date the source document for this information, since on page 4, under the paragraph with the heading: "Present Situation" we learn that the circular was written sometime in June 1982, and that Dr. Harris, then DCMO, was considering the importation of a US vaccine.

Note: The DHSS seemed more concerned with commercial interests - like whether to continue with the financial contribution they had been making towards the development of a plasma-derived Hepatitis B vaccine which they could exploit commercially - than the safety of products made from source-plasma obtained in questionable circumstances:

"...This is due to concern which has arisen about the possible transmission of AIDS in plasma-derived products, in circumstances where the blood donors likely to be the most productive sources of hepatitis B surface antigen happen often to be individuals at risk of developing AIDS."

It would not have been difficult for the DHSS to have foreseen, from this detailed information, that products manufactured from U.S. or other suspect source-plasma were going to be a huge threat to the lives of haemophiliacs.
Source:
Type: DHSS Circular - commercial in confidence. June 1982. Dr Ed L. Harris, Deputy Chief Medical Officer (DCMO, DH, 1977-89).
Location: UK
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1982
16 July
DHSS Had Early Awareness of Concerns over the Safety of American Factor VIII
In a DHSS letter of 16 July 1982, we read of an early awareness of research which fairly conclusively demonstrates that:

"....plasma taken from homosexual drug-takers contains a sort of virus which goes undetected when the plasma is tested because it is suppressed by the drugs. However, when used for Factor VIII, it becomes active again."

The DHSS letter states that information has been received from the American Bureau of Biologics (via NIBSC) indicating there may be considerable publicity in the next couple of weeks concerning the safety of American Factor VIII.

From the following comment, it appears the DHSS are complacent at this stage:

"In any case with our voluntary unpaid donor system we do not have the same problems as in the States where drug addicts are tempted to give blood simply for the money. However, about half of the Factor VIII bought from commercial companies is imported from the USA."

Note: In terms of knowledge in the United Kingdom, this is one of the earlier dates (16 July 1982) which demonstrates that the DHSS had advance "private" knowledge of the safety risks from US commercial factor VIII almost 10 months earlier than we previously thought. This DHSS letter went out 1 year prior to the infamous July 1983 CSM meeting (reported in the Guardian by Sarah Hall on Friday May 25, 2007).

This early knowledge by officials also pre-dates (by 2 months) our earliest known point of awareness of AIDS by the UKHCDO (which was in September 1982). We know that Dr Craske was tasked with looking into reports of the syndrome in 3 haemophiliacs from the United States.

Source: Link #1
Type: DOH FOI Documents
Location: UK
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1982
13 September
UKHCDO - Dr Craske - Knowledge of US Haemophiliac AIDS Cases
In a Haemophilia Centre Directors' Organisation meeting in September 1982, there is not only knowledge of AIDS infecting haemophiliacs in the USA, but also, there is some understanding of the possible involvement of commercial blood products.

Dr Craske is tasked with looking into reports of the syndrome in 3 haemophiliacs from the United States. HCDO minutes state that: "It appeared that there was a remote possibility that commercial blood products had been involved."

Source: Link #1
Type: HCDO Minutes
Location: UK
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1983
15 January
Dr Jones - Link Between AIDS and Common Cell Immunity in Haemophiliacs
A Lancet report by Dr Jones describes the link between AIDS and common cell immunity in haemophiliacs.
Source: Haemophiliac HIV Litigation, Advice on Settlement Document, Appendix 1, Chronology, pp 56-58.
Type: Lancet Report
Location: UK
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1983
23 March
US Food and Drug Administration - Post-March 23rd Regulations
FDA requirements on blood donations introduced.
Source: Haemophiliac HIV Litigation, Advice on Settlement Document, Appendix 1, Chronology, pp 56-58.
Type: Regulations
Location: USA
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1983
3 May
Dr Vaughan, ex Health Minister, Was Warned in 1981 of Danger of Contaminated Blood
In an Oral Question in Prime Minister's Question Time on Tuesday 3rd May 1983, Mr Race makes it clear that Dr Gerard Vaughan, former Minister for Health, was warned 2 years earlier, circa May 1981, of the danger of contaminated blood supplies from the USA:

Mr. Race: "As the House of Commons' favourite own-goal merchant, the Minister for Consumer Affairs, was warned two years ago by his own Department of the danger of contaminated blood supplies coming from the United States, will the Prime Minister rectify that deplorable and disgraceful mistake by immediately authorizing the necessary expenditure within the National Health Service to make Britain independent in its blood supplies?" (see first column, para 9.)

Note: This Oral Question reveals that Dr Gerard Vaughan, then Minister for Health, knew sometime in 1981, possibly from as early as May, of the threat of contaminated blood supplies which were being imported from the United States. This is one of the earliest warnings that we are aware of so far and we are astonished to learn of how early this awareness was, and that so little was done. Clearly, we are not being told everything.

Source: Additional source (see para 5)
Link #2
Type: Oral Answer, Prime Minister's Question Time. 3rd May 1983. Additional Source: Health and Social Services Journal, May 12, 1983. Article by Michael White. (see paragraph 5)
Location: UK
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1983
13 May
DHSS - Inaction over AIDS - Decision not to Withdraw US Factor VIII
In a DHSS letter of 13th May 1983, it is clear that the DHSS has had sight of a letter from the CDSC (dated 9th May 1983), in which a recommendation that American FVIII concentrates should be withdrawn from use because of the risk of transmitting AIDS.

Nevertheless, the DHSS appear to take little notice:

"In my view this suggestion is premature in relation to the evidence and unbalanced in that it does not take into account the risks to haemophiliacs of withdrawing a major source of their FVIII supplies".

Note: Where were the DHSS obtaining their medical advice? The HCDO had already had 9 months to consider the problem of imported Factor VIII as Dr Craske had been specifically tasked by the HCDO with looking into reports of AIDS in 3 haemophiliacs from the United States - this was in September 1982. Dr Craske, at that time, had suspected a link to commercial Factor VIII and this was minuted.

Source: Additional Source: Minutes of the 13th Meeting of U.K. HCDO
Link #2
Type: Recovered Document - DHSS Letter. Med SEB. 'Action on Aids'. Dated 13th May 1983.
Location: UK
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1983
13 May
Haemophilia Reference Centre Directors - Decision Not to Restrict Imported Factor VIII
At a Meeting of the Haemophilia Reference Centre Directors on 13th May 1983, the Directors decided that, on the evidence available, (and because of the benefits of treatment), that no restriction should be placed on imported Factor VIII concentrate.

The only exception the Directors made was to continue with their policy of only using NHS material for children under the age of 4 and for mild haemophiliacs.

Background: Why didn't the Directors of Haemophilia Centres try and do more to ban imported Factor VIII concentrate? They appear to have ignored the following warnings:

  • Dr Craske had been tasked by the HCDO with looking into reports of the syndrome in 3 haemophiliacs from the United States a whole 9 months before (in September 1982) and he suspected a link to commercial Factor VIII.
  • 5 months earlier, (January 1983) there had been an article in the Lancet by Dr Jones (also HCDO), where AIDS was linked to common cell immunity in haemophiliacs.
  • The FDA requirements on blood donations had already been introduced on 23rd March 1983 - this was 2 months before this decision.
  • On 6th May, (1 week earlier) the CDSC telephoned the DHSS to inform them that a 23 year old haemophiliac patient in Cardiff was now showing symptoms of an AIDS diagnosis after having been infused with US Factor VIII.
  • On 9th May 1983, (4 days earlier), the CDSC had written a letter recommending that American FVIII should be withdrawn from use due to the risk of transmitting AIDS. The DHSS definitely had sight of this CDSC letter by 13th May 1983.
Source: Additional Source: Minutes of the 13th Meeting of U.K. HCDO
Link #2
Type: Recovered Document - AIDS Background Paper II. Dated 31st May 1983.
Location: UK
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1983
13 July
Committee on Safety of Medicines - Biologicals Sub-Committee
The Biologicals Sub-Committee of CSM recommends that very little is done about the threat of AIDS to haemophiliacs.
  • The possibility is considered of withdrawing clotting factor concentrates from the market and replacing them with cryoprecipitate. It is concluded that this is not feasible in the UK on grounds of supply. (Minutes Agenda Point 5.3)
  • The possibility is considered of withdrawing US preparations from the UK. It is concluded that this is not at present feasible on grounds of supply. Moreover, the perceived level of risk does not at present justify serious consideration of such a solution. (Minutes Agenda Point 5.4)
Source: Additional Sources: Haemophilia HIV Litigation, Advice on Settlement Doc., pp 56-58.
Link #2
Type: Minutes - Committee on Safety of Medicines
Location: UK
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1984
20 November
Dr Seale - Attempts for 2 Years to Alert Public Health Officials of AIDS Threat
In an article in The Standard, it states that Dr Seale had been trying to alert public health officials to the implications of the threat of AIDS for nearly two years:

Dr John Seale: "I wrote to both Mrs Thatcher and the Public Health Laboratory Services to suggest blood transfusion policy changes then." (paragraph 4)

Note: This article shows that both Margaret Thatcher and the PHLS were notified circa November 1982 and could reasonably have been expected to know about the threat of AIDS to the Blood Transfusion Service and thus to haemophiliacs.

Source:
Type: Recovered Document - Article in The Standard, by Alan Massam. 20th November 1984
Location: UK
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1986
20 November
DoH had Knowledge in 1982 that AIDS could be Transmitted by Blood Products
In the House of Commons on Thursday 20th November 1986, Mr. Dobson asks Mr. Newton when the Department first became aware that Aids could be transmitted through blood and blood products:

Mr. Dobson asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when his Department first became aware that acquired immune deficiency syndrome could be transmitted through blood and blood products.

Mr. Newton [pursuant to his reply, 17 November 1986, c. 78]: We became aware in 1982 of reports from the United States of America that haemophiliacs were contracting AIDS. Although the mechanics of infection was not known it was presumed that it had been transmitted through the use of blood products such as Factor VIII. Evidence that the AIDS infection could also be transmitted by blood transfusion emerged from the United States of America in 1983.

Note: According to Hansard, Dr Gerard Vaughan, then Minister for Health, had knowledge, sometime in 1981, possibly from as early as May, of the threat of contaminated blood supplies which were being imported from the United States. This is one of the earliest warnings that we are aware of (so far) and we are astonished to learn of how early this awareness was, and that so little was done. Clearly, we are still not being told everything. (see related entries link below.)

We also know that in July 1982, the DHSS had early knowledge in of "a sort of virus" found within plasma taken from "homosexual drug-takers" which went undetected when the plasma was tested but when it was used for Factor VIII, it became active again.

Source:
Type: House of Commons Hansard
Location: UK
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