Monday, December 7, 2009

The market for blood plasma

Is Money Tainting the Plasma Supply?

"Hundreds, probably thousands, of Mexicans like Ms. Delgado come to the United States to trade their plasma for dollars. Eagle Pass, a town of 27,000 that bills itself as the place “where yee-hah meets olĂ©,” has two such plasma collection centers. There are about 15 others in border cities from Brownsville, Tex., to Yuma, Ariz.
The centers are run by pharmaceutical companies that transform the plasma into life-saving but expensive medicines for diseases like immune deficiencies and hemophilia.
Some border centers are new while others have been around for many years. They account for only a small percentage of the plasma collected by the industry, with the rest coming from collection centers throughout the United States.
But they have stirred debate in recent years because they illustrate the workings of the $12 billion plasma products business, a fast-growing industry that has depended on the blood of people hard up for cash. Based on typical industry yields and prevailing prices, it appears that a single plasma donation, for which a donor might be paid $30, results in pharmaceutical products worth at least $300.

Away from the border as well, many plasma collection centers have historically been located in areas of extreme poverty, some with high drug abuse. That troubles some people, who say it might contaminate the plasma supply or the health of people who sell their plasma.
“Why in the United States do we have to depend on people who are down and out to donate?” says Dr. Roger Kobayashi, an immunologist in Omaha who uses plasma products to treat many patients. “You are taking advantage of economically disadvantaged individuals, and I don’t think you are that worried about their health.” "
"But the plasma companies and federal regulators say the practice is legal, ethical and safe. There have been no known cases of an infectious disease being transmitted through plasma products for more than a decade. And since the body quickly renews its plasma, the process is considered safe for donors if properly monitored.
It’s not like giving up a kidney,” says Dr. Jay Epstein, director of blood research at the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates the collection centers and the plasma products."
"The United States is one of the few countries that allows plasma donors to be paid. (And even here the plasma industry says it pays donors for their time, not for the plasma itself.)
But many of the countries that prohibit compensation do not collect enough plasma. So they rely on plasma or plasma products made from the blood of people who donate in the United States, which supplies more than half the world’s plasma.
“The U.S. is the OPEC of plasma,” says Jim MacPherson, chief executive of America’s Blood Centers, a network of blood banks.
FOR the plasma industry, times have been good. Growth has averaged 8 percent a year over the last two decades. "
"To satisfy demand for plasma-based medicines, the industry has increased the number of collection centers to 408, from 299 in 2005, according to the Plasma Protein Therapeutics Association, the industry trade group. Paid donations in the United States rose to 18.8 million in 2008 from 10.4 million in 2005. "

"There are even a few signs that in areas hardest hit by the economic downturn, people who once donated blood without compensation to organizations like the Red Cross are selling plasma instead. “I know of five or six people who are multi-gallon donors who have switched to plasma,” said Doug Klynstra, recruitment manager for Michigan Blood, a nonprofit blood bank. He said the bank’s donations are down 10 percent this year. "

"The blood banks generally collect whole blood, which is separated into red cells, platelets and plasma and often used for transfusions. They almost never pay for donations because that might induce donors to cover up health problems that could make the blood unsafe.
The plasma companies, which collect only plasma, say that is less of a concern for them because their manufacturing process can kill many viruses and because they have more time to screen donors. "

1 comment:

Unknown said...

January is the National Blood Donor Month. I am here to spread the word about blood donations and be a blood donor. I've been a blood donor 3 years already and it really makes me feel proud because I save lives. As we all know, blood banks shortages kills tons of people and every 2 seconds someone in the United states needs blood.

This is will be time to make a difference and help each other. You can visit they have all the information on how to be a blood donor and a directory of all the Blood Bank in the United States.