News in brief: Funding criteria amendment for tisagenlecleucel; RhD positivity increases SARS-CoV-2 susceptibility; Omicron surge causes blood donor shortage

Thursday, 10 Feb 2022

Funding criteria amendment for tisagenlecleucel

Widening of eligibility criteria for public funding of tisagenlecleucel (Kymriah) has been recommended for some people with transformed follicular lymphoma and grade 3B follicular lymphoma.

The Medicare Service Advisory Committee has accepted a request from Novartis for people who have transformed follicular lymphoma who have undergone autologous stem cell transplant (ASCT) be able to access tisagenlecleucel without a requirement for additional systemic therapy post-ASCT.

MSAC also recommended approval for a request for people who have grade 3B follicular lymphoma to be treated the same as those people with DLBCL, due to the similarity of grade 3B follicular lymphoma to DLBCL in being fast growing compared to grades 1, 2 and 3A.

The committee said it considered there would be a very small number of additional people who would be eligible, and noted there was support for these changes from the National CAR-T Patient Prioritisation Committee, and from the States and Territories

Rhesus factor blood type associated with SARS-CoV-2 susceptibility

RhD positivity is a risk factor for COVID-19 susceptibility and severity, a US study has shown

A review of hospital records for more than 180,000 patients who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 -in  2020 and 2021 found that the proportion of patients with RhD positivity increased progressively from COVID test-negative to infected, hospitalized ICU patients.

RhD positive patients showed a modest 9% greater susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 infection (adjusted OR=1.09), and RhD positive, infected patients were substantially more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 (OR=1.26) and require ICU care (OR 1.25).

The study authors said they found no evidence for blood group A as a risk factor for COVID-19 infection. They noted that  Rh factor was important for blood type compatibility and immune response, and further study of antigenic interactions between Rh factor and SARSCoV-2 would be worthwhile to determine whether this may contribute to individual and population risk prediction

The findings are published in the British Journal of Haematology.

Omicron surge causes blood donor shortage

About 20% of potential blood donors have been unable to donate due to people being infected or isolating with COVID-19 Omicron variant, according to Australian Red Cross Lifeblood.

An urgent appeal for new donors is being made after Lifeblood said the recent surge in Omicron had led to an estimated 100,000 donors being sidelined, and about 4,500 donations cancelled every day.

“Our growing population is relying on just 500,000 blood donors across the country – and right now many of them need someone else to continue this lifesaving work. You only need to be clear of COVID-19 symptoms for seven days to donate,” said spokesperson Cath Stone.

Lifeblood said that while it encouraged people to book in advance, donor centres were welcoming walk-in donors.

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