IVIg alternative for surgery patients with bleeding disorder

Tricia Abe

Patients with a bleeding disorder called immune thrombocytopenia (ITP) are at risk for blood loss if they need to have surgery. Because their blood doesn’t clot as it should, ITP patients are commonly treated before surgery with intravenous immune globulin (IVIg), which helps their blood clot by increasing the number of platelets. But a study published in The Lancet Haematology and led by Dr. Donald Arnold, director of the McMaster Centre for Transfusion Research, shows that an oral medication that stimulates the production of platelets, called eltrombopag, is an effective alternative to IVIg for this patient group.  

Why is this important?  As discussed in a previous R.E.D. blog post, demand for IVIg in Canada and around the world is high and keeps growing— but the supply of this blood-derived drug is limited. According to Dr. Arnold, accessibility to alternative treatments such as eltrombopag could play an important role in improving IVIg availability overall. “A global shortage of immune globulin products is anticipated,” he says. “And this shortage could possibly be compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

To learn more about the study, read our latest Research Unit

What’s next for Dr. Arnold and his team? Dr. Arnold explains that in Canada, IVIg is provided to hospitals by Canadian Blood Services, but it is an expensive treatment option. “The next step for us is to better understand the financial costs and benefits of eltrombopag as an alternative treatment.”  

MCTR receives funding support from Canadian Blood Services through the Transfusion Medicine Research Program Support Award. 

Dr. Donald Arnold, director of the McMaster Centre for Transfusion Research
Dr. Donald Arnold, director of the McMaster Centre for Transfusion Research


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The opinions reflected in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Canadian Blood Services nor do they reflect the views of Health Canada or any other funding agency.