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Bone Marrow Foundation Cleared in Federal Report

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A now defunct Covina-based bone marrow donor foundation has been cleared of allegations that it misused funds and withheld names of potential donors from another group that also helps arrange transplants, a federal report concluded.

The Life-Savers Foundation of America committed no financial improprieties, “generally maintained complete and accurate . . . records” and properly managed its operations, according to an investigative report by the inspector general of the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

“We’re very pleased that the foundation has been completely exonerated, as we knew we would be,” Dr. Rudolf Brutoco, the nonprofit foundation’s founder, said this week.

Life-Savers spokeswoman Susan Rafkin said problems arose last June after the organization, which had been under contract to recruit donors for the Minneapolis-based National Marrow Donor Program, broke away, citing philosophical differences.

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Life-Savers formed its own data bank and became embroiled in a legal dispute with the national registry over rights to donor information. Last July, a federal judge in Minnesota ordered Life-Savers to turn over the entire list of names collected before the groups separated.

Meanwhile, allegations by the National Marrow Donor Program prompted five senators to ask federal health officials to investigate Life-Savers.

Last month, as the investigation continued, the two groups settled their differences. Life-Savers agreed to disband and allow its trademark to be used by the national organization. Brutoco and two other Life-Savers officials have joined the board of directors of the national program.

Since it began in 1988, Life-Savers officials said, it recruited 135,000 potential donors, whose names were kept on computer files and matched with recipients when a bone marrow transplant was needed.

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An official of the national program said the allegations had resulted in part from “misunderstandings or miscommunication” between the groups, according to the report.


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