Potential Impact of AUSFTA on Australia’s Blood Supply
Medical Journal of Australia, Vol. 185, No. 6, pp. 320-323, 2006
4 Pages Posted: 21 May 2009
Date Written: July 14, 2006
Australia is largely self-sufficient in its supply of safe, fresh blood products because of the goodwill of non-remunerated, volunteer donors, plus rigorous testing and processing standards. Australia, under the National Blood Agreement, has a policy of “self-sufficiency” in fresh blood and plasma products. The policy refers to effort rather than outcome, with self-sufficiency defined as “striving to meet clinical demands using local product”. In recent years, increasing amounts of plasma- derived and recombinant products have been imported (with limited policy debate). However, for the most part, plasma products continue to be derived from Australian donations and processed in Australia.
Whole blood, plasma and platelets from non-remunerated, volunteer donors are collected by the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, and tested for HIV, hepatitis B and C, HTLV-1 and -2, syphilis, and for cytomegalovirus (to protect recipients with immune deficiencies).
On 1 January 2005, the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) came into force.4 A side letter to this agreement opens the way for the importation of blood and plasma-derived products to increase considerably above current levels.
In this article, we raise several specific concerns relating to AUSFTA and the safety, quality, and security of supply of Australia’s blood and plasma products. We also argue that AUSFTA creates additional uncertainties by increasing the potential for policy lobbying based on the threat of so-called “non-violation nullification of benefits” disputes, although we maintain these must be restricted to unambiguous textual obligations. Off-shore fractionation could compromise the safety of Australia’s blood supply through delays in processing and transportation, issues related to quality control, and even the siphoning of stock to overseas markets.
Keywords: Blood donation, plasma fractionation, free trade agreements, AUSFTA, non-violation nullification of benefits, globalisation
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