From next year, Sanquin will conduct preventive blood tests from donors to detect diseases at an early stage. A number of tests are started, but in the end any blood donor who wants to can get the extra information about his health. According to the blood bank’s own research, three quarters of the total of 400,000 donors would like to have this information.
Shortage of plasma donors
Sanquin calls it preventive health care. “As a company, we see healthcare costs rising in the Netherlands and what can we do about it? We think we are in the ideal situation to be able to prevent diseases in people.”
In addition, it can also be a reason for people to register as a new donor. Additional donors are desperately needed, especially plasma donors. The demand for plasma is growing at an annual rate of between 5 and 7 percent, but the number of donors is not increasing at the same rate.
According to professor of cardiology Pim van der Harst at the University Medical Center Utrecht, blood tests can indeed detect cardiovascular diseases. For example, you can measure blood sugar and cholesterol via signal substances in the blood. Van der Harst is enthusiastic about Sanquin’s plan: “The future is that you should be given the opportunity to adjust your lifestyle early in life if preventive research shows that you have an increased risk of something.”
KWF Kankerbestrijding is also positive: “If you are caught early, the chance of surviving cancer is many times higher. There are often more and better treatment options at such an early stage.”
Health economist Marcel Canoy, affiliated with the VU University Amsterdam, is less enthusiastic. According to him, people need to realize what information they can get and how they deal with it. “It can have psychological consequences. That you are already worried about a disease that puts you at increased risk, while you don’t have that disease yet. And it can happen that you decide to undergo medical treatment too early and unnecessarily.”
Canoy also wonders what Sanquin will do with all the data they will soon have on their donors. “They have to be open about that. Who is in charge of that data? And isn’t your medical information sold to commercial companies?”