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

Men's Health

Font Size

Blood Transfusion Alternative

Experimental Drug May Replace Human Blood Transfusions

WebMD Health News

Oct. 14, 2002 -- An experimental drug derived from cow blood may provide a life-saving alternative to human blood transfusions. New research shows the oxygen-carrying drug can be a safe and effective short-term replacement for donated human red blood cells during surgery.

Blood shortages across the U.S. have become increasingly acute in recent years, and this year at least one major hospital has been forced to cancel scheduled surgeries due to a lack of blood supply.

Researchers say the experimental drug, known as polymerized bovine (cow) hemoglobin or HBOC-201, can help keep people stable during and after surgery and ease the demand for human red blood cells by postponing transfusions or even making them unnecessary.

Unlike stored human blood, the drug also has several practical advantages. It's compatible with every blood type, does not require refrigeration, remains stable for three years, and potential infectious agents are removed during the manufacturing process.

In this phase III clinical trial, researchers compared the effectiveness and safety of HBOC-201 with that of donated red blood cells in about 700 orthopaedic surgery patients. More than half of the HBOC-201 patients were able to avoid a blood transfusion.

There were no significant abnormalities or problems in the group that received the experimental drug compared with those who got red blood cells. The most commonly reported side effect of HBOC-201 was a superficial yellow skin discoloration. Other side effects were mild and limited, the researchers say.

The drug is delivered intravenously and uses purified cow hemoglobin (the oxygen-carrying pigment found in red blood cells) to improve oxygen flow in the patient's tissues. Researchers say the bovine hemoglobin molecules are small, allowing them to flow better in the blood vessels and deliver oxygen even more efficiently than human red blood cells.

But the researchers say it's not a matter of being more effective than human blood.

"HBOC-201 effectively provides an oxygen 'bridge' that helps keep acutely anemic patients stable during and after surgery," says study author Jonathan S. Jahr, MD, director of clinical research at UCLA, in a news release. "It can also fill an unmet medical need when compatible red blood cells are not readily available or when there is a need of preference to avoid blood transfusions."

Today on WebMD

man coughing
Men shouldn’t ignore.
man swinging in hammock
And how to get out it.
shaving tools
On your shaving skills.
muscular man flexing
Four facts that matter.
Food Men 10 Foods Boost Male Health
Thoughtful man sitting on bed
Man taking blood pressure
doctor holding syringe
Condom Quiz
man running
older couple in bed