Monday, July 13, 2020

More on plasma, payments, and convalescent plasma

Peter Jaworski gives some more reasons that countries should legalize compensation to plasma donors, rather than buying their plasma products from the U.S.

In Reason:
Americans Get Paid To Donate Plasma. Everyone Else Should Too
Our secret weapon against COVID-19 could be cold, hard cash.  7.2.2020

"American dominance in the plasma market is explained by one simple fact: In America, it is legal and commonplace to pay people to give plasma. Millions of Americans regularly give plasma in exchange for $30 to $50 per donation. The average American donor gives 21.4 times per year, with a per capita collection volume of 113 liters of plasma per 1,000 people. If you add plasma obtained from Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Czechia—the other places where a form of compensation (typically capped at 25 euros, intended only to cover expenses) is offered—paid plasma accounts for a staggering 89 percent of all the plasma used to make plasma therapies for the whole world. Just five countries account for nine-tenths of the world's plasma.
"Donor recruitment and retention, staffing, plus marketing costs, combine to make the collection of unpaid plasma two to four times more expensive than just giving money to the donors.
"[bans on payment were partly] motivated by the concern that payment attracted people from lower socioeconomic rungs of the economic ladder who are more likely to be carriers of HIV, hepatitis C, and other transfusion-transmissible infections.

"But those concerns no longer apply, partly due to significant improvements in testing technology since the 1970s when the WHO first recommended not paying blood and plasma donors. This improvement in testing happens to form the backbone of arguments among advocates of eliminating restrictions on blood and plasma donation by gay men, which currently require three months of celibacy per the Food and Drug Administration's revised guidance issued this April. But improvements in testing alone are not the reason why plasma for plasma therapies should be considered categorically different from blood and plasma used for transfusions; it is manufacturers' ability to use virus removal and inactivation techniques that marks the stark difference.

"In the 1980s, we discovered that heat treatment was effective against HIV. Much like how washing your hands with soap destroys the coronavirus, use of solvents and detergents are effective against lipid-enveloped viruses, including hepatitis C and HIV. Nanofiltration ensures that only molecules of a certain size—the proteins we want—get through, preventing larger molecules from passing into the plasma pool. Most American paid plasma collection centers are also International Quality Plasma Program (IQPP) certified. This voluntary standard, issued by the Plasma Protein Therapeutics Association, involves additional safety steps including the requirement that any donor's first donation be placed on hold, only to be released with the second donation from the same donor. This holding step gives us an opportunity to test the same plasma twice, avoiding the rare possibility of a virus being within the window period where it cannot be detected. This hold means that if you give plasma once and don't go back, your plasma will be discarded."

With convalescent plasma donation,  the safety check involved in sequestering the first donation until the second one is also tested for infection is not the only set of tests.  For each donation there is also a measurement of how much Covid-19 antibody (IgG) is present, and if it is enough to be therapeutic. So, for example, after each donation I have to wait for those results to find out if I'll be invited to donate again. (So far, at each visit I give a bit over 800ml of plasma, and that donation is divided into four units of 200ml. My understanding is that my units have so far all been administered to hospitalized Covid-19 patients in Fresno and San Jose.)

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