Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations
Cerus and Baxter Receive European Approval for Blood Cleansing System That Detects HIV, Hepatitis C
Cerus Corp., a Concord, Calif.-based biotechnology firm, and marketing partner Baxter International yesterday received approval from European regulators for their new platelet-filtering system and expect to make the technology available by the end of the year, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Abate, San Francisco Chronicle, 6/5). The technology, called pathogen inactivation, uses a chemical activated by ultraviolet light to deactivate viruses or bacteria contained in platelets, thus preventing the pathogens from multiplying. Since the organisms cannot reproduce, they eventually die and the platelets are safe for human use. Pathogen inactivation could kill organisms that conventional blood tests do not detect, such as those that cause malaria and Lyme disease, and it might be beneficial in rare cases where screening tests fail to detect HIV or hepatitis C. However, the technology is limited because it does not attack all organisms that cause disease -- including the mutated proteins that cause mad-cow disease -- but attacks only those with DNA and RNA (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/27). Cerus and Baxter hope to have U.S. regulatory approval sometime early next year, and plan to apply later in 2003 to the FDA for approval of a similar system used to screen plasma (Fuhrmans, Wall Street Journal, 6/5). Analysts for Merrill Lynch, which either "does business with Cerus or expects to," predict that the three filtering systems combined could generate an international market worth about $2 billion annually (San Francisco Chronicle, 6/5). However, other analysts say the size of the market will hinge on whether insurance companies and other health care providers are willing to cover the costs of the filtering system when "so many other tests" -- including a new test that can reduce the odds of HIV and hepatitis C transmission to about one in two million -- are on the market (Wall Street Journal, 6/5).
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