The business of paying for plasma


Plasma donors have donated approximately 500 million units of plasma over the past three decades, saving the lives of countless people with rare diseases.

Plasma is used to treat diseases such as Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that causes the body’s immune system to mistakenly attack part of its peripheral nervous system, and alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. , an inherited disorder that can cause lung disease and liver disease.

Sign up for a plasma donation and you’ll notice something different from a blood drive: these centers pay and donors can earn up to $1,000 in the first month of their donation.

Despite the money Faraz Kermani, global communications manager for the Plasma Protein Therapeutics Association, insists “it’s not a payment.”

“It’s compensation for the effort and the time they give,” he said. The needle stick is the same, but donating plasma takes about four times longer than donating whole blood.

plasma donor

Many of these plasma centers are subsidiaries of profitable, publicly traded life science companies, so the money donors receive comes from the companies themselves. BioLife Plasma Services, with a site in Greenville, is a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Takeda, one of the world’s top 20 pharmaceutical companies by revenue. CSL Plasma, with sites in Greenville, Spartanburg and Rock Hill, is a subsidiary of Australian company CSL Limited, which develops innovative biotherapies and vaccines and had sales of over $7 billion in 2021.

“T“Over years of acquisitions, mergers and consolidations in the industry, many companies that collect plasma are a division or the right arm of the manufacturing company,” explained Mat Gulick, spokesperson for PPTA . “They don’t sell it to a company because they are those companies. This is part of their main production line.

Consider whole blood as local and plasma as global. When someone donates blood to The Blood Connection, it is used locally and quickly. Plasma, however, is a global industry, and the United States is its largest supplier. American plasma represents 38% of the plasma used in Europe.

Plasma donation is similar to blood donation. After the needle is placed in a vein and blood travels down the tube, plasma is separated from red blood cells and other cellular components in a process called plasmapheresis. The rest of the blood is returned to the body with a sterile saline solution to help the body replace the plasma that has been removed.

After the donation is complete, the plasma is bagged, frozen and stored for 60 days of testing, then it takes five to 10 months to be processed into therapy.

The popularity of plasma donation has grown in recent years. People can donate up to twice in a seven-day period, 104 times a year, and while most don’t donate the maximum number of times, 53 million units were donated in 2019 alone.

The pandemic has led to a 20% drop in plasma donations. The significant decline has not been accompanied by a decline in clinical need, and “it takes time to come back,” Gulick said.

It takes about 900 plasma donations to treat someone with Alpha1 for one year, and about 1,200 plasma donations to treat severe hemophilia during that time.

“When you think about it…you start to get an idea of ​​what’s really needed,” Gulick said.

The GBS | The CIDP Foundation is currently organizing a Plasma Please campaign to encourage the donation of plasma necessary for the treatment of Guillain-Barré syndrome, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy and related conditions. Those interested in finding a donation center can visit


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