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Contaminated blood scandal: Top north London doctors knew blood products had transmitted hepatitis in 1974

PUBLISHED: 15:59 07 October 2019 | UPDATED: 16:22 10 October 2019

Factor VIII blood products infected thousands of haemophiliacs with HIV and hepatitus C during the contamniated blood scandal of the 1980s and 1990s. Picture: Factor 8 Campaign UK

Factor VIII blood products infected thousands of haemophiliacs with HIV and hepatitus C during the contamniated blood scandal of the 1980s and 1990s. Picture: Factor 8 Campaign UK

Factor 8 Campaign UK

Senior haemophilia consultants - including from the Royal Free Hospital and University College Hospital (UCH)- were told in 1974 that patients given commercial Factor VIII blood products in this country had developed hepatitis A or B.

Jason Evans, whose father Jonathan died from Aids, is the lead claimant in the group action law suit. Picture: Archant/Emma YouleJason Evans, whose father Jonathan died from Aids, is the lead claimant in the group action law suit. Picture: Archant/Emma Youle

The blood products, which were used to treat bleeding disorders, are at the heart of the contaminated blood scandal.

Thousands of people have died after being given blood products which carried the HIV virus or Hepatitis C.

Minutes from a 1974 meeting, newly released to campaigner Jason Evans under Freedom of Information law, show that senior medics were aware that haemophiliacs were being given imported blood products that were making them ill but did not act on this.

One top doctor said they hoped imported blood would not get "a bad name".

Jason Evans, whose father Jonathan died from Aids, is the lead claimant in the group action law suit. Picture: Archant/Emma YouleJason Evans, whose father Jonathan died from Aids, is the lead claimant in the group action law suit. Picture: Archant/Emma Youle

One anonymous victim known as patient B - who contracted HIV and Hepatitis C after being given contaminated blood products at the Royal Free - told this newspaper: "The fact that staff at haemophilia centres have known things like this - and most likely more still hidden - is appalling. The time is long past for liability to be admitted and accepted. How much more do we have to endure and fight?"

Contaminated batches of Factor VIII continued to be given to innocent victims throughout the 1970s and 80s, with the vast majority of patients not told of the risk of contracting a blood-borne virus.

Factor VIII was made from pooling human blood plasma.

The continuing public inquiry into the scandal is set to return to London this week - victims and their families will be giving evidence for the next three weeks.

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Dr Katharine Dormandy, who set up the Royal Free's Haemophilia centre was among those to attend the meeting, as her successor Dr Peter Kernoff. A Dr J Richards from UCH was also in attendance.

It took place in 1974 and there a Dr Craske from the public health laboratory at Poole Hospital, reported an "epidemic of hepatitis A and B" in haemophilia patients in Bournemouth "who had received one particular batch of commercial Factor VIII".

Of the patients, six had contracted hepatitis A and three hepatitis B, he said, adding that, as far as he knew, this was the first record of hepatitis A "being transmitted to patients" by one batch of Factor VIII.

A Dr Rizza then told the meeting there had been 11 cases of hepatitis A in patients in Oxford.

The ensuing discussion saw Professor James Stewart from Middlesex Hospital, say there was no need to withdraw material contaminated with hepatitis B as it could be given to patients who had the antibody for hepatitis B or who had had hepatitis previously.

Dr Rosemary Biggs, from Oxford, told the meeting "it was not yet proved that the commercial Factor VIII was much more dangerous from the point of view of causing hepatitis than other preparations and that she hoped this material would not get an unnecessarily bad name.

"It was in fact clinically invaluable while the NHS supply chain was so limited."

As a result of the experts choosing to ignore the warnings, a broad range of patients continued to be given contaminated blood products for at least another decade.

A Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) spokesman said: "The infected blood scandal was a tragedy that should never have happened, and the ongoing public inquiry was set up to get to the truth and give families the answers they deserve.

"We are committed to being open and transparent with the inquiry and have waived the usual legal privileges to assist the process."

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