The Authority undertook this health technology assessment (HTA) in response to a request from the Department of Health. This assessment was completed and submitted as advice to the Minister for Health.
HTA of Prion Filtration
The purpose of the HTA was to inform a decision as to whether or not prion filtration of red cell concentrates (RCC) should be adopted as a standard approach by the Irish Blood Transfusion Service.
Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) is one of a group of rare, progressive and ultimately fatal degenerative disease of the nervous system, also known as prion diseases. They are thought to be caused by an abnormal form of a naturally occurring protein in the brain (the prion protein) that has been acquired through infection. The origin of vCJD has been linked to the consumption of BSE-infected beef. However, vCJD may also be transmitted via a blood transfusion from an infected donor who has not developed symptoms of the disease. Prion filtration is a new technology to be used in conjunction with existing blood safety strategies which aim to reduce the risk of vCJD transmission. The filters are designed to remove infectious prion protein from donated blood making the transfused blood safer for recipients.
The HTA evaluated the available evidence on the risk of vCJD transmission from transfusion of RCC in Ireland, the safety and efficacy of prion-removing filters and the cost-effectiveness and resource requirements of implementing a policy of prion filtration. It also examined the ethical and legal issues relevant to any decision regarding the implementation or non-implementation of the technology.