Report increases hepatitis C exposure cases to 8,896

Opening the door to further claims for compensation by hepatitis C sufferers, the health ministry released a report Friday upping the number of people administered tainted fibrinogen blood-clotting agents in Japan to 8,896. However, it is not known how many of them have suffered liver disease as a result. Of the 8,896, only 3,632, or about 40 percent, have been told by medical organizations that they were given the contaminated fibrinogen blood products to stop bleeding, mainly during delivery, ministry officials said. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry worked out the figure in a nationwide survey on about 6,600 medical institutions to which the fibrinogen blood products were supplied. Of the medical institutions, 1,622 have kept medical records, operative notes or prescription documents that could help hepatitis C sufferers seek benefits from the government and drugmakers. This represented an increase of some 1,100 from the ministry's previous survey in 2004. This may lead to an increase in the number of people who can seek compensation from the government. Health minister Yoichi Masuzoe on Friday criticized the ministry's 2004 survey, saying the checks should have been more thorough. Earlier, hepatitis C sufferers who filed damages suits against the government and drugmakers estimated that only up to 1,000 people could prove they had been administered tainted blood products, based on the 2004 survey. Hepatitis C sufferers had earlier reached a compromise agreement with the government to end their court battle under a new law that provides blanket relief measures for the sufferers. The accord calls for providing benefits to sufferers who can prove they received contaminated blood products if the causal relationship between their hepatitis C and the products are confirmed. Under the law, sufferers will receive compensation ranging from