Bad Blood: A Cautionary Tale
Distributed by Films Media Group, 132 West 31st St., 17th Floor, New York, NY 10001; 800-257-5126
Produced by Marilyn Ness
Directed by Marilyn Ness
DVD, color, 82 min.
Jr. High - General Adult
Health Sciences, Ethics
Reviewed by Warren Hawkes, Library, New York State Nurses Association
Date Entered: 9/8/2011
Healthcare is big business and often times the motives behind research and competition in the healthcare industry are called into question. The pharmaceutical industry is one segment where those issues are particularly noted, and frequently the phrase ‘profits before patients’ is heard in discussion of their healthcare ethics. This film elaborately details one such scenario in U.S. pharmaceutical development.
Hemophilia, a disease where the body doesn’t produce an adequate amount of clotting agent, was a horrific disorder prior to the 1960s. In the 1960s with the discovery of a plasma based concentrate later just called ‘factor’, treatment of hemophilia became less acute care based. But as the film progresses we learn about the process for producing ‘factor’ and that the source of the blood supply for the pharmaceutical industry’s products were contaminated primarily with hepatitis. With knowledge of this and latter knowledge that heat treatment may eliminate the hepatitis virus, manufacturers still held true to their old processes. In addition, government regulatory agencies and patient advocacy groups were passively ineffectual. This series of events continued unchecked until the early 1980s when suddenly a new disorder appeared – AIDS. The film shows the initial efforts of some to persuade the medical community that AIDS was in fact a blood-borne disorder and that additional efforts should be made to safeguard the blood supply and alter the production of products to treat hemophiliacs. The meeting failed to produce any outcomes and the end result was the infection of over 10,000 hemophiliacs with HIV and 15,000 with hepatitis. After an eventual public outcry and a published report by the Institute of Medicine, additional steps were taken to safeguard the blood supply and better protect patients. Although this film is focused on a broad topical issue, it is told through the personal stories of a number of individual families and their hemophiliac children and what evolved during this time period. It also has interviews with many of the health professionals who were unsuccessful in moving the medical-industrial-agency complex into a safer approach to protect the public – and they warn, ‘this will happen again’.