Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Brain & Nervous System Health Center

Font Size

FDA Vetoes Tighter 'Mad Cow' Blood Restrictions

WebMD Health News

June 1, 2000 (Washington) -- After weighing the pros and cons of further tightening U.S. blood donation restrictions to combat the spread of new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), the human version of "mad cow disease," an advisory panel to the FDA voted overwhelmingly to keep things as they are.

CJD is a disorder that attacks the brain, literally punching tiny holes in vital nerve tissue. It is believed that CJD is caused by a prion, a protein that goes awry causing profound damage in the process. The disease strikes about one in a million people, and eventually leads to dementia and death. There is no cure. Scientists believe that prions from animals infected with mad cow disease are the source of CJD in humans, although the link has not been conclusively proven.

FDA experts met Thursday to decide whether an existing ban, which prevents some people who have lived in the U.K. from donating blood in the U.S., should be extended to France and other European countries that have reported cases of CJD.

A number of European public health specialists told the panel that it appears the CJD outbreak is still spreading, albeit very slowly, to countries beyond Great Britain, where the disease has claimed at least 57 lives. For instance, Ireland has had 12 cases of CJD since 1996, and in France, there have been three CJD deaths in the last 2 years.

The experts, however, recommended no further donor restrictions, voting instead to keep the blood supply flowing.

In August of last year, the FDA took steps to protect the U.S. blood supply from the threat of CJD. Based on a recommendation by this advisory committee, the agency decided to ban blood donations from people who had spent at least 6 months in the U.K. from 1980-1996. The theory was that they might have eaten British beef contaminated with mad cow disease.

It's estimated that the "deferral" on donors who'd been to the U.K. reduced the risk of catching CJD from transfusion by almost 90%. However, the action also diminished the amount of donated blood by an estimated 2.2%.

Today on WebMD

nerve damage
Learn how this disease affects the nervous system.
senior woman with lost expression
Know the early warning signs.
woman in art gallery
Tips to stay smart, sharp, and focused.
medical marijuana plant
What is it used for?
senior man
boy hits soccer ball with head
red and white swirl
marijuana plant
brain illustration stroke
nerve damage
Alzheimers Overview
Graphic of number filled head and dna double helix