FDA examines changing donation policies for men who have sex with men



Pathogen reduction technology

The committee heard a proposal for a completely different strategy during its afternoon session: pathogen reduction technology (PRT) holds promise to achieve virtual elimination of HIV and other pathogens from donated blood products.

The FDA is reviewing a variance request from the nonprofit blood donation organization Bloodworks Northwest organization to use PRT for apheresis platelet donations from MSM who would otherwise be deferred because of sexual activity within the 12-month deferral window.

James AuBuchon, MD, president of Bloodworks Northwest, explained that his organization takes in about 225,000 donations annually. The variance sought would use the FDA-approved INTERCEPT device to achieve pathogen reduction for donations that meet all requirements except the MSM deferral, and that would still undergo all relevant transfusion transmitted infection testing.

The INTERCEPT device uses amotosalen, which intercalates with DNA and RNA, inactivating it after exposure to ultraviolet A light. Amotosalen is then removed from the blood product before administration. The pathogen reduction activity doesn’t interfere with platelets or plasma, and is active against a wide range of viruses, bacteria, and fungal pathogens, explained Dr. AuBuchon, who is also a professor of hematology at the University of Washington, Seattle.

Dr. AuBuchon walked the committee through procedures designed to flag donors for PRT platelet apheresis, and to ensure these donations receive the intended PRT treatment. Platelets were chosen for this variance request, he explained, because demand outstrips supply. “We are all spending additional time and resources in recruiting a new framework and demographic, and it is exceedingly difficult to keep enough donors coming through the door,” he said. “Our platelet utilization climbs continually – it’s up 15% in the last 4 years.”

Committee members circled around the idea that all risk can’t be eliminated, even with the highly effective PRT technology. But the risk is exceedingly low, said committee chair Richard Kaufman, MD, medical director of the adult transfusion service at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston. “It’s not possible to get rid of the window. We can kind of hammer down the risk by shrinking down the window by using incredibly sensitive tests. But that risk continues to exist. Pathogen reduction can take care of that residual risk…. So what’s left is really quite a low risk,” Dr. Kaufman said.

Susan Stramer, PhD, vice president of scientific affairs for the American Red Cross, concurred, noting that pathogen reduction techniques are already in use for many other blood products, particularly within the plasma industry.

Wrapping up, Dr. Kaufman asked individual committee members to summarize their position on the variance request, though the FDA had not placed a voting question before the committee. Consensus in the room was that this real-world examination of PRT could point to a path to expanding the donor pool while maintaining patient safety – a concern all agreed was paramount.

The FDA usually follows the recommendations of its committees.


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