Italian Officials to Reopen Probe of Tainted Blood Transfusions
Italian officials will reopen in November their investigation into the government's role in allowing the use of HIV-contaminated blood in transfusions, Reuters Health reports. The investigation, which was halted in December by "technicalities," was looking into charges that former members of the Italian Ministry of Health "allowed blood products contaminated with HIV" to be used during the early years of the epidemic despite the availability of an HIV screening test. The Italian Hemophiliacs Association has said that approximately 3,500 of the country's 5,000 hemophiliacs have contracted HIV or hepatitis as a result of the tainted blood. A 1992 decision by an Italian court said that individuals who become infected through contaminated blood are entitled to compensation of 150 million lira ($70,600) from the health ministry. However, 211 people "directly or indirectly affected by blood infections" filed a complaint against the decision with the European Court of Human Rights, stating that $70,600 is "insufficient" compensation. The European court ruled last week that the Italian Ministry of Justice must pay two billion lira ($941,000) to "some" of the hemophiliacs who contracted HIV or hepatitis and their families. In addition, the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance has been asked to allocate an additional 12 billion lira ($5.6 million) for compensation. However, this decision was called "unsatisfactory" by the Italian blood transfusion advocacy group Associazione Polittransfusi Italiani. Group President Angelo Magrini said, "We are not satisfied with the decision of the Ministry of Justice. In fact, the payments only cover some of the hemophiliacs who filed complaints, since the rest of the money has not been assigned yet." The association wants the Italian government to create a "solidarity fund" that would provide compensation to people who receive tainted blood through transfusions. Pharmaceutical companies "who have profited from the [tainted] blood products" should also contribute money to the fund, the association added (Reuters Health, 9/21).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.