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Cord Blood Europe calls for objective debate on family storage of cord blood cells

28 April 2011
by Cord Blood Europe -- last modified 30 April 2011

On average 11.7% of pregnant women are willing to store their child's cord blood stem cells in a private bank, according to a study that was published in the recognized Journal Transfusion and that analyzed attitudes towards cord blood storage in 5 EU countries.


In practice in Europe less than 1% of stem cells at birth are stored in private banks. Research conducted by Prof. Dr. Zygmunt Pojda, Director of the tissue engineering department and public stem cell bank at the Center of Oncology Maria Sklodowska-Curie Memorial Institute (Poland), has shown that the number of transplantations with umbilical cord blood has exceeded 19 000, which is about 30% of all the transplantations with hematopoietic cells. Autologous transplantations have been performed more  rarely i.e. till now data concerning 400 - 500 cases have been collected.

These findings are in contrast with a recent discussion  in the European Parliament where representatives of French and Italian public stem cell banks were calling upon a restriction or ban of private cord blood banks. Italian parents who want to store cord blood privately for their own family can only apply for such medical service at a bank located outside Italy, and under  certain conditions. Neither can French parents store  in a private bank based in France since no such banks have been accredited so far. In addition, exportation of their child's cord blood is partially limited through a difficult and extensive export authorization procedure that must be followed. These are the only two countries in Europe that have transposed the European legislation in such discriminating way that future parents are obliged to seek solutions for private storage abroad. Restrictions in parents' access to private cord blood storage are justified in France and Italy on solidarity and lack of scientific evidence grounds but in reality is only favoring public state monopolies with limited service offering to parents and possible future parents.
"In view of this discussion we strongly encourage decision-makers to take into account updated evidence coming from a variety of sources and medical branches during an open and inclusive debate", concludes Dr. Eberhard Lampeter, President of the not-for-profit  association Cord Blood Europe. Cord Blood Europe is concerned that the discussion which took place in the European Parliament left little or no scope for the expression of private sector's position and that all three MEPs who hosted this discussion were from Italy and from one single political group. The interests of parents who prefer private storage cannot be simply ignored and can be complementary to voluntary donation principles currently applied in Europe.

Moreover, the views expressed by some MEPs present at the discussion have been misleadingly reported in a press release subsequently published by the Italian federation ADOCES, whose President is a member of the ad hoc coalition.    
"I was very surprised to read that I shared the views of the coalition during the discussion. This declaration is misleading", says MEP Miroslav Mikolášik. "I do not think that public storage should be the only way to go about. As research is progressing fast and new evidence justifying both autologous and allogeneic applications appears, the right balance between public and private initiative has to be found. To take just one example - in Slovakia - my country - Eurocord, which represents public initiative, cooperates with the Cord Blood Center, which is a private bank. I am confident that other collaboration models and opportunities can be found between the two sectors", concludes MEP Mikolášik.
Cord Blood Europe has informed the Chair of the European Parliament Committee for Public Health, Environment and Food Safety, MEP Jo Leinen, about the very biased views and unfair oversight of some stakeholders and some opinions expressed. "We call upon Members of the European Parliament to hold a public debate in full transparency and according to the formal proceedings of a Committee hearing", says Dr. Eberhard Lampeter, President of Cord Blood Europe.  "The discussion should not be about banning private initiative to favor state monopolies, but about how to be able to get sufficient and effective means to treat future patients. This can only be successfully done through public-private collaboration. Some public banks  in the USA and EU have already started to offer private storage services just like the private banks. On the other hand, some private banks also have today public storage programmes. This shows the added value of storage for potential use within the family, i.e. for autologous and related allogeneic uses. I wish to remind that private banks store for both potential autologous and related allogeneic uses", adds Dr. Lampeter. 
Cord Blood Europe has started a dialogue with European legislators to call upon an assessment of the current transposition of European directives in view of equal access to healthcare services for European citizens.

Cord Blood Europe is a European Association of family cord blood banks. Its mission is to promote awareness about the advantages of adult stem cells in Europe and to increase the storage of stem cells at birth in Europe so that stem cell samples are stored and not thrown away any longer.

Cord Blood Europe