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American Red Cross Under Scrutiny

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Despite facing a court order and millions of dollars in fines over the way it handles the blood supply, the American Red Cross is still not doing enough to make sure donated blood is safe.  Now, officials at the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is threatening to initiate criminal charges if the Red Cross doesn’t get its act together.

The American Red Cross has been under a court order for the past 15 years to improve the way it handles the nation’s blood supply. Since 2003, the Red Cross has been fined more than $21 million for failing to do so. The Red Cross controls 43 percent of the country’s blood supply. According to FDA records, some of the safety lapses at the Red Cross that resulted in fines put patients in danger, and exposed them to diseases like hepatitis, malaria and syphilis. Despite repeated incidents, the FDA says the Red Cross has failed to investigate the results of its mistakes, so no one knows for sure if any of the incidents resulted in patient injuries.

Since 2003 the American Red Cross has operated under a consent decree requiring it to “establish clear lines of managerial control over a newly established comprehensive quality assurance system in all regions; enhance training programs; and improve computer systems, records management, and policies for investigating and reporting problems, including adverse reactions.” But since 2003, the FDA has levied $21 million in fines against the American Red Cross.

According to The New York Times, the FDA has become so frustrated over the situation that in January, agency commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach attended a meeting of the Red Cross board of directors. The commissioner warned meeting attendees that they could face criminal charges for their continued failure to bring about compliance.

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