Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Is selling blood plasma a scam?

The other day I was donating whole blood at the Red Cross. While laying back in the chair staring at the phlebotomist in awkward silence, I decided to strike up a conversation. I was curious about if the blood given at this particular center is used all over the world. No. It is only used in my state... and we use it all up!
I was really curious about selling plasma. I know a lot of people who do that, and I wondered what the difference is. I recently had a friend tell me that selling plasma is actually MORE helpful than donating whole blood. Is this true?
The phlebotomist told me, definitely NOT! She claimed that the plasma sold could never be used in another human body because sellers who may need money, may be more inclined to lie when giving information about their current health status. In fact, she said that certain companies spend 'big bucks' to buy plasma from these places in order to use them in commercial products. Seriously? She claimed that the plasma is used in a number of beauty and personal care products as well as pet food. What? She did say that some of the plasma could possibly be used for research and/or pharmaceuticals. Have you ever heard of this?
She was obviously anti-plasma sales and pro-whole blood donations or other Red Cross donatables (platelets, red blood cells). She mentioned that if I told anyone who sells plasma about this, they'd argue with me until they were blue in the face... or maybe I'd be blue in the face... I can't remember. But anyway, I think the subject is important. If a person is selling plasma for extra money, great... whatever. BUT, if a person is selling plasma because they think they are saving lives... well then, shouldn't they know the truth?
So the question is, is this woman speaking fact or hearsay? Anybody? I've been trying to find information on the subject, and am not having much luck. Websites for plasma centers call it "lifesaving" or "lifegiving".
The only negatives I found were about the donors themselves and some naughty plasma centers. The FDA regulates these centers and has found some to be out of compliance. Apparently, many people do falsify information when going in to sell plasma. They may claim that they do not do intravenous drugs, or do not have specific diseases, or are not pregnant... when in fact they are lying. Some centers apparently falsify reports - over bleeding patients, fudging the red blood cell counts of donors so that they appear healthier than they are, allowing feverish, intoxicated, underweight, or pregnant women to have their blood drawn.
It is an interesting subject, and I really am interested in more information if anyone could shed some light on the subject.
For me, I'll stick with the Red Cross. But if you are going to sell plasma, with the intent to save a life, maybe we should do a little more research.

By the way, doctors and hospitals can get plasma from the Red Cross whole blood donations.


Anonymous said...

Visit the Plasma Protein Therapeutics Association at to find out more info on blood plasma and what it is used for.

Lisa said...

Anon- thank you for the link!

Angela said...

How funny that you posted about this today. I just donated at Lifesouth today (our local blood donation place). It was a whole blood donation too.

I've thought of the plasma donations in the past, but never did it because I heard that it hurt more since they have to put the blood back in after they take out the plasma. Ew. I'd rather they just take it and keep it!

I always feel so good about myself after donating. The people there are so nice (and give you free cookies and juice, what's not to like!) and I know my donation helps people.

I first donated after seeing a horrible car accident. I wanted to help in some way, and so went to donate blood.

So glad to see you posting about it. Maybe one of your readers will be inspired! :)

Brian and Courtni said...

Good grief...I haven't even ever thought of that -- it makes sense though. Now you have me thinking...I'll have Brian research it (he is a lot better at things like that than I am!)

Anonymous said...

FDA also finds the whole blood centers out of compliance on a regular ba$i$.

Anonymous said...

What IS a scam is the cold hard facts. Which is that they want us to "donate" blood but they make big money off my blood. How about paying me seeing that you resell it, and its not like its non profit. At least the plasma offers something, instead of scamming you by appealing to your compassionate side. Why don't they give it away, or make NO profit off of it? When their excuse is that this is still a business that has to make money, I say well so do I. I say to everyone, DON"T DONATE, make them pay us, instead of milking us like cattle.

Anonymous said...

According to the place i donate the plasma isn't used until a year or so later after it has been tested for medical use. I asked because of possible contact with someone who might have a disease. Hemophiliacs apparently need the plasma to stop bleeding. Unless there's an alternative to this I'd say it's very possible a good cause.

Anonymous said...

They do pay us, good money too.