FDA Tries to Reduce Blood Platelet Donations

By: Lindsay Puccio
By: Lindsay Puccio

March 9, 2006

Blood donation centers are in desperate need of platelet donors, and the Food and Drug Administration may soon make that process even more difficult.

A lot of people donate blood, but only some donate platelets. It's the sticky material in blood that helps it clot. Big machines separate the platelets out of the blood and it is given to AIDS and cancer patients who are platelet depleted.

Former delegate Mitch Van Yahres has been donating platelets for over 20 years and he said it takes about an hour, but it's worth it.

"I have the supply, and so why not give it to help out others?" said Van Yahres.

Virginia Blood Services said they're in desperate need, but how often people can give could soon change. The FDA Advisory Committee is considering a new set of guidelines that would restrict a person's donations from 72 pints a year to just 24.

Supporters said the proposal would protect donors from giving away too many platelets. Yet blood experts said there's no evidence that donors are in any danger. Blood banks warn this would dramatically cut supplies.

"We would be unable to supply sufficient platelets to the hospitals to take care of their needs," said Nancy Conry of Virginia Blood Services.

Corny said that would put sick patients at risk.

"Without the platelets a lot of patients will be unable to have chemotherapy," said Corny.

The FDA's decision could mean a matter of life or death for patients fighting deadly diseases.

The committee is expected to make a recommendation to the FDA in the near future. In addition to platelets, Virginia Blood Services is now critically low on O+, O-, and B- blood.

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