Shipments of factor VIII manufactured as part of Project Recovery have started arriving at treatment centres around the world. These are the first deliveries in a project that the WFH and its collaborators have worked on for over a decade.
Moving forward, this reliable supply of factor VIII will allow the WFH to carefully plan its Humanitarian Aid Program donations and ensure efficient use of this valuable gift. It also serves as an example and inspiration for embarking on similar humanitarian projects with other countries where there is more unused factor VIII.
There are a few reasons for the existence of “surplus” factor VIII in some parts of the world. In countries where most of the patients use recombinant clotting factors, there is not as much demand for plasma-derived factor VIII as there was in the past. At the same time, there is an increasing demand for another medicine derived from human plasma – immune globulins (IG). This means that more and more plasma is collected to manufacture IG but the factor VIII is not all manufactured into final products because it is not needed domestically. Given that there is a shortage of clotting factors in many parts of the world, it is unfortunate that much of this surplus goes untouched.
The idea first proposed by the Canadian Hemophilia Society (CHS) was simple—Canada has surplus cryoprecipitate that is discarded rather than purified into factor VIII, why not process it and donate it to help patients in need in other countries? CHS took this proposal to Canadian Blood Services (CBS) and WFH and Project Recovery was launched. However, what seemed so simple turned out to be very complicated. Every step in the process—from blood donation to delivery of the finished product—had to be evaluated.
Grifols, the company that harvests the cryoprecipitate, agreed to perform additional tests on the plasma to comply with European regulations. Once Biotest (the manufacturer of the final product Haemoctin) joined the project, they made an enormous effort to make Project Recovery a reality. With four partners and three different countries involved, the details sometimes seemed overwhelming. Thanks in large part to CBS and Biotest’s firm commitment and humanitarian vision, unused Canadian factor VIII is now available to patients around the world.
At the World Congress in Melbourne, WFH president Alain Weill announced an agreement with the Italian blood services to begin work on a similar project (Project WISH) using surplus Italian factor VIII. This will also result in a sustained long-term supply of clotting factor for humanitarian purposes. Furthermore, the WFH held talks with officials from other countries interested in finding ways to make their surpluses available to people in need. There is enormous potential in “surplus” clotting factors and the success of Project Recovery demonstrates that it is possible to get them to the people who need them most.