Science

More Countries Should Pay Plasma Donors

Most foreign countries refuse to pay for plasma because of outmoded guidance from the World Health Organization, so much of the world relies on the U.S.'s paid plasma donors.

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Life-saving plasma therapies are essential for many patients, but every year we flirt with a shortage. Plasma collected in the United States is the source material for more than 70 percent of the world's supply; humanity is nearly always one market disruption away from global catastrophe.

American dominance in this realm is explained by one simple fact: In the United States, it's legal to pay people for their plasma. Millions of Americans regularly give plasma in exchange for $30–$50 per donation. The average American donor gives 21.4 times per year. If you add plasma obtained from Germany, Austria, Hungary, and the Czech Republic—the other places where compensation is offered—paid plasma accounts for a staggering 89 percent of all the plasma used to make plasma therapies for the whole world.

Most foreign countries refuse to pay for plasma because of outmoded guidance from the World Health Organization. Its decades-old policy was initially motivated by the concern that payment would attract people from lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder who are more likely to be carriers of transmissible infections. Those concerns no longer apply: There have been significant improvements in testing technology since the 1970s, and modern manufacturers now have the ability to use virus removal and inactivation techniques, rendering samples safer than ever. Yet the organization's guidance has not changed.

Some theorize that we don't have more volunteer plasma donors because we just haven't asked in the right way. But millions have been spent on TV, radio, and newspaper advertisements encouraging unpaid donation. Others say paid plasma is exploitative, but they don't explain how prohibiting compensation would help people who currently feel the need to sell their plasma. Countries that have made the switch to paid donation have not seen altruism pushed out. The Czech Republic legalized compensation for plasma donations in 2008. Within three years, total donations increased sevenfold, making the country self-sufficient in plasma therapies.

Due to the coronavirus, plasma donations have fallen 15–20 percent across the United States. Between the depressed supply of plasma and the possibility that demand will rise as new COVID-19 treatments that rely on plasma are developed, the world could well be heading for a devastating shortfall. The problem could be quickly and cheaply remedied if it weren't for irresponsible guidance from global health bodies and an unfounded bias against paid donation.

 

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  1. You should be allowed to sell plasma, but you should be allowed to sell your product of conception.

    1. I mean, you can sell the pre-products of conception (sperm and eggs) and I guess *someone* can sell the products of an abortion

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  3. Just add this to the cost of drugs here that helps keep them lower in other countries. And of course, protecting Europe, Japan and South Korea. They’d love to get us to fork over to ‘stop global warming, or is it ‘climate change’ now ?

    1. Just add this to the cost of drugs here that helps keep them lower in other countries.

      So you’d prefer to not pay donors for their plasma and time?

      1. No, I prefer the rest of the world get skin in the game.

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  5. It is the problem with all medical type donations, including organs, the only uncompensated entity is the donor.

  6. Plasma collected in the United States is the source material for more than 70 percent of the world’s supply

    I did not know this. Does “plasma donation” include whole blood donation? What percentage of blood donation is plasma donation versus whole blood donation? Does the Red Cross regularly convert whole blood donation into plasma? What percentage of Red Cross donations wind up in foreign countries?

    1. No, “plasma donation” does not include “whole blood” donation.

      I can’t find reliable statistics for the ratio of whole blood to plasma donation but I’m guessing that plasma is a lot lower. On the one hand, you can donate plasma every 28 days but may only donate whole blood every 56 days. On the other hand, a whole blood donation takes about 15 min including paperwork and requires no technology greater than a needle. A plasma donation takes almost 1.5 hours and requires specialized machinery.

      Yes, the Red Cross does convert donations into component parts but I don’t know how often.

      Some other tidbits about blood donations:
      – Whole blood must be used within 42 days. Plasma has a shelf life of a year. Platelets (a donation type not discussed in the article) must be used within 5 days.
      – Donating blood burns up to 650 calories. That’s roughly equivalent to a 7 mile walk.

      And finally, a silver lining in this whole coronavirus mess. It drove the FDA to finally lift their Creutzfeldt-Jakob prohibition and, after almost 40 years, allow veterans who served on military bases in Europe to donate blood again.

      1. The blood donation diet?

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      2. See I would guess that plasma donations are higher. You can actually donate plasma twice a week (at least you could 10-15 yrs ago when I was in college). Just about every mid-sized city has plasma donation centers, especially those with colleges or military bases, and they usually stay busy all day, seven days a week.

        It’s always been crazy to me that it’s illegal to compensate people for whole blood donations, but not plasma donations. Seems like a lot of good could come from allowing payment.

        1. You can actually donate plasma twice a week[.]

          This. I used to do just that, in college.

          1. +1 Beer money
            +1 Lower blood volume = higher BAC

        2. Your body replenishes plasma replenishes about 72 hours. But the Red Cross, I think at the direction of the FDA, limits donations to no more often than every 28 days. I don’t know how long ago they imposed that restriction.

          1. My kingdom for an edit button!
            … replenishes plasma in about 72 hours.

          2. Ah, I think I googled and found your source. There isn’t an actual FDA restriction, that’s just an American Red Cross guideline. Plasma centers still allow donations twice a week provided there’s at least a day between donations.

        3. It’s always been crazy to me that it’s illegal to compensate people for whole blood donations, but not plasma donations.

          The craziest part is that it’s illegal to compensate people for whole blood donations *as whole blood product* but not for whole blood donations as a container for biomarkers. You can’t pay someone for a pint of whole blood to save someone’s life but if you want a pint of someone’s blood to see if their cholesterol is too high and/or if your treatment is working… draw away.

      3. Thanks for the information! I’ve learned my “something new” for the day.

        I used to donate blood regularly to the Red Cross until my sister clued me in on what a scam the Red Cross was running and then I briefly donated at a plasma center here in town until the plasma center closed and now there’s nowhere to donate.

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  8. USA, USA, USA! We’ve cornered the market in plasma, and this syrup drinker wants that to end. Screw him, we’re winning, MAGA bitches.

  9. Most foreign countries refuse to pay for plasma because of outmoded guidance from the World Health Organization.

    Paid plasma might cut into the value of Uyghur slave plasma from WHOs communist masters.

    1. Cue up Disney’s “Its a Small World”?

      1. It takes a village. Or a concentration camp.

  10. More Countries Should Pay Plasma Donors
    Fewer Countries Should Listen To The WHO

    Most foreign countries refuse to pay for plasma because of outmoded guidance from the World Health Organization, so much of the world relies on the U.S.’s paid plasma donors.
    Specifically, for the purposes of this story, when it comes to private decisions about plasma donation.

    FIFY you fucking “libertarians”.

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