Technion lab worker
A lab worker at the Technion. Photo by Technion
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Health officials are warning of a shortage in hospitals and clinics of immunoglobulin medicines, used for saving patients whose immune systems have failed. The shortage was caused by the removal from the shelves of Omrigam, one such medicine, late last week.

Haaretz reported Friday that Omrigam, produced by Omrix Biopharmaceuticals, a medicine based on blood plasma, was removed from the shelves following suspicion by Health Ministry officials that it was linked to the deaths of two patients who used it, and complications in the condition of nine others.

The Health Ministry inquiry began in early February following a report made to the ministry by the Sheba Medical Center on the development of blood clots in more than four patients treated with Omrigam.

By late August, Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer reported on a seriously ill patient who died after being treated with the medicine, although there still remains a possibility that her death was caused by the illness. At a later stage a report arrived about another patient who died after being treated with Omrigam, which is believed to have resulted in blood clot in the lungs.

Omrigam is prescribed to patients with low or collapsing immune systems, in most cases once a month. According to Professor Amos Etzioni, director of the Children's Hospital at the Rambam Medical Center and president of the European Society for Immunodeficiencies, "If no efforts are made to find a replacement medicine, we may experience a huge disaster."

"There are patients who need immunoglobulin to save their lives, and there are those with autoimmune diseases that, without the medicine, need to be treated with old-fashioned methods like antibiotics and steroids, which were done 20 years ago. These types of treatments have serious side effects," Etzioni says.

There is an apparent global shortage of immunoglobulin, Haaretz has learned, following the removal from the market of a similar medicine made by Octapharma, an European company. The reason was attributed to higher risk of blood clots in patients using the medicine.

The Health Ministry issued a directive yesterday on ending the use of Omrigam, which will be allowed for use in patients for whom it is the only option, but under constant supervision by medical professionals. It also assured that there are sufficient supplies of alternative medicines.