Amid tightening blood supplies and growing acceptance of alternative medicine, federal health officials are considering whether to relax rules that now prevent those receiving acupuncture from donating blood.
An estimated 1 million people nationwide make more than 9 million office visits a year to have thin needles stuck into their skin at specific locations. One blood banking official estimated that 100,000 people or more a year try to donate but are turned away because they use this traditional Asian healing method.
Since 1992, those treated with acupuncture in the past year have been restricted, or "deferred," from donating blood. The issue is one of many questions asked of potential donors to sort out those at greater risk of disease. The same question quizzes about tattoos and piercings.
Food and Drug Administration guidance defers would-be donors who, in the past year, have received acupuncture, tattoos or piercings when sterile procedures were not used.
Those behaviors have been considered risky because needles used in the procedures could prick blood vessels and, if reused, transmit a variety of viruses and other pathogens, such as AIDS or hepatitis. An infection could be too recent to be picked up during blood screening.
Some blood banks permit donations from these groups if convinced that the procedure was done with sterile equipment.
Prompted by blood donation centers that don't want to turn away potential donors, an advisory committee has asked the FDA to drop the deferral of acupuncture patients.
FDA spokeswoman Lenore Gelb said the agency, which regulates the blood industry, is considering the recommendation.
Many states now regulate acupuncture, and its practitioners - often doctors - typically use disposable needles, often to relieve pain, nausea and addictions. At least 42 states, including Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia, regulate licensing of acupuncture, according to the Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Alliance.
Research shows that acupuncture does not increase the risk for transmitting diseases such as hepatitis.
"The science, the medicine has changed," said Dr. Louis Katz, who spoke at the advisory committee's recent meeting on behalf of the American Association of Blood Banks, an industry organization. "We're deferring people who are probably not at risk for the things we've been deferring them for."
The same committee voted against dropping the deferral of donors who have been tattooed or pierced but agreed to recommend shortening the deferral period because of improvements in viral testing.
The chairman of the advisory committee, epidemiologist Dr. Kenrad Nelson of Johns Hopkins University, said the committee decided that acupuncture was "more akin to a medical procedure."
The decision on tattoos and piercings came despite a review of several studies concluding that those procedures do not increase the risk of hepatitis B or C.
Acupuncture's growing popularity and improved reputation may have colored the committee's decision, said Dr. Celso Bianco, executive vice president for America's Blood Centers, a network of independent blood banks that collects about half of the nation's blood supply.
"Acupuncture is perceived by the public as socially acceptable," Bianco said.
The Association of Professional Piercers' Elayne Angel defended her organization's hygiene standards as stringent. "It is a regrettable situation to discard [or defer] potential donors on the basis of those body piercings."
No one testified before the committee on behalf of tattoo artists.
"We're happy that the FDA continues to balance possible risks to the blood supply against unnecessary elimination of potential safe blood donors," said Laura Cameron, a spokeswoman for Virginia Blood Services, which collects and provides most of the blood in central Virginia.
Of the 15 percent who tried to donate last year but were deferred by VBS, more than 3 percent were for tattoos, piercings or acupuncture. In this area, Cameron said, tattoos and piercings are a far bigger issue than acupuncture for blood centers.
Category: News & Events for Health
About the Author (Author Profile)
Holle everybody welcome to the acupunctureschoolonline.com. My name is Mo, I hope discuss about acupuncture with everybody! Hope you can find what you want in my website.If you have questions , please click here --Our A&Q system.http://ask.acupunctureschoolonline.com