9 Mar 2012

Ministry says hospitals' supplies of blood product safe

7:38 pm on 9 March 2012

The Health Ministry says hospitals have several weeks supply of the blood product albumin that they can be confident is safe, and more is on the way.

During routine maintenance, the Australian manufacturer CSL Biotherapies found traces of contamination from a coolant in some batches of the specialised blood product, used in intensive care and surgery in New Zealand and Australian hospitals.

New Zealand's Health Ministry says any contamination is a worry, but the level is believed to be very low and unlikely to result in clinical problems. It says there are no reports of patients being harmed in New Zealand.

All hospitals in New Zealand have been told of the finding, and have been asked to use their oldest stocks first.

The ministry says a new supply of albumin that has been tested and cleared was due to arrive in Auckland on Friday evening, and will be distributed to hospitals over the weekend.

On Thursday, Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration called for the quarantining of some batches of albumin, the main protein in blood plasma.

It came after Melbourne-based CSL Biotherapies found traces of ethylene glycol in batches of the product. It says the contamination came from equipment failure. Ethylene glycol is present in the equipment used to regulate temperature during part of the manufacturing process.

The Health Ministry says CSL has not identified any New Zealand batches that are affected.