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Which Medications Can Affect My Eligibility to Give Blood?

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Donating blood is like giving someone the gift of life. Many people with blood disorders like sickle cell disease and thalassemia depend on blood donations to survive. Also, blood transfusions can be life-saving in women with childbirth complications, children with anemia, individuals who have suffered severe trauma, and patients who have complex medical conditions or have undergone surgeries. Donated blood can also be used to make hepatitis B immune globulin which can be used for immediate, short-term protection against hepatitis B.

The whole blood a person donates can be separated into various componentsplasma, platelets, and red blood cellsand each blood product can be used individually for people with specific medical conditions.

There is a constant and ongoing need for regular blood donation by healthy people who are eligible to donate blood. The reason behind encouraging regular blood donation is to meet the demands for blood and because donated blood can only be stored for a limited time. In recent times, the Covid-19 pandemic has underlined the need for blood donation to meet patient care needs. 

If you would like to do your bit and are keen on donating blood, you need to make sure it is safe for you and the person who receives your blood. For example, some medications can affect whether you are eligible to donate blood. Continue reading to learn more about some of the drugs that affect your eligibility for blood donation. We’ll also talk about some other factors that can disqualify a potential blood donor from a donation.

Does medication affect blood donation?

Most commonly used medications like over-the-counter supplements, medications used to control high blood pressure, and birth control pills do not affect your eligibility to donate blood. However, certain drugs do affect your ability to give blood, and some medications disqualify you as a blood donor completely. (Note: You should never stop a prescribed medication to donate whole blood before talking to your physician first). There are also some medications that temporarily disqualify you from donating blood. If you take these drugs, you must wait a period of time before donating blood.

What medicines prevent you from donating blood?

Blood thinners or anticoagulants

Blood thinners or anticoagulants are medications that prevent the blood from clotting. Examples include heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), and fondaparinux (Arixtra). People who take blood thinners currently cannot donate blood because these drugs cause abnormal blood clotting. You will need to wait 2 days, 7 days, 14 days, or 1 month after your last dose (depending on the specific anticoagulant) before you can donate.

Antiplatelet medications

Antiplatelet medications stop platelets in the blood from clumping together and forming a clot. If you take an antiplatelet drug like aspirin or Plavix (clopidogrel), you can donate whole blood. However, you must wait anywhere from 2-14 days (depending on the specific drug) before you can donate platelets. 

Antibiotics

People taking antibiotics are potential blood donors 24 hours after their last dose. However, you should consult a physician before donating because an active infection can disqualify you from donating.

Acne treatments

Isotretinoin is a prescription drug for severe acne. Isotretinoin is a category X drug, meaning it can cause birth defects. Therefore, donated blood from a person who takes isotretinoin can cause harm to the fetus if the receiver of that blood is pregnant. For this reason, you are not eligible to donate blood if you are taking isotretinoin. You will need to wait until at least one month after your last dose before you can be a potential blood donor.

BPH and hair loss drugs

Finasteride brand names Proscar, Propecia) is a drug that is used to treat BPH (benign prostate hypertrophy, also known as benign enlargement of the prostate) and hair loss in men. This medication can cause birth defects, and therefore, if you take finasteride, you cannot donate whole blood or any component of blood for one month after your last dose.

Dutasteride (brand names Avodart, Jalyn) is also used for BPH and hair loss treatment in men. You need to wait at least 6 months after your last dose of this medication before blood donation.

Psoriasis medications

Acitretin (Soriatane) is a medication that is sometimes prescribed to patients with psoriasis. It can lead to severe birth defects if given during pregnancy. People who have been treated with acitretin must wait at least 3 years before they can donate blood. It is important to note that if you have ever been treated for psoriasis with etretinate (Tegison), you are unable to donate blood in your lifetime.

Rheumatoid arthritis treatment

People who have received a drug called leflunomide (Arava), which is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, require a deferral of 24 months before blood donation.

Multiple sclerosis treatments

Teriflunomide (Aubagio) is a medication used to treat multiple sclerosis. If you take it, your blood can contain the drug at levels high enough to harm an unborn baby if transfused to a woman during pregnancy. People who take teriflunomide must, therefore, wait at least 2 years before they are eligible to donate blood. 

Growth hormone

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)  of the United States recommends extreme caution for people who have received pituitary human growth hormone. The FDA recommends such individuals should avoid donating whole blood or blood products like red blood cells and platelets due to their increased risk of developing a rare and incurable type of brain disease called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). This disease can potentially be transmitted to a person who receives donated blood by a person who was treated with growth hormone.

What medications prevent you from donating plasma?

During a plasma-only donation, whole blood is drawn from your arm and put through a machine that collects your plasma. Other components of your blood like red blood cells and platelets are returned back to your circulation. Platelets can be similarly removed by a process called apheresis. The American Red Cross allows people to donate plasma or blood every 28 days. Certain medications can prevent you from donating plasma (see list above). Also, if you have yourself received a blood transfusion, a deferral of 3 months is recommended before donation.

Am I eligible to donate blood? What will disqualify me from donating blood?

According to the Red Cross eligibility criteria, donors may be disqualified from donating if:

  • They are younger than 17 years of age.
  • They don’t weigh at least 110 pounds.
  • They are taking certain medications (see list above).
  • They have certain medical conditions like hemochromatosis, hepatitis, HIV, tuberculosis, or other active infections.
  • They are actively using illegal drugs.
  • They have recently traveled to or lived in a country that is high-risk for malaria.
  • They are pregnant or have given birth in the last 6 weeks.
  • They have been treated for sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis or gonorrhea in the last 3 months.
  • They have received a tattoo in the last 3 months in a state that does not regulate tattoo facilities.


References:

1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/blood-donor-program/faq

2. https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/blood-products-why-should-i-donate-blood

3. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/national-hormone-pituitary-program#donateBlood

4. https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/how-to-donate/types-of-blood-donations/plasma-donation.html

5. https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/how-to-donate/eligibility-requirements/eligibility-criteria-alphabetical.html

6. https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/healthlinkbc-files/hepatitis-b-immune-globulin