America’s booming blood-plasma industry


TODAY Derek From is a successful lawyer in Canada. Twelve years ago, he was roughing it in Arizona, trying to break into the recording industry. So he started selling his blood plasma. Twice a week, he sat for an hour in a Grifols Biomat centre, as an apheresis machine whirled, siphoning the plasma out of his blood. For this, he took home $ 45. “As a poor person” at the time, he found that “a huge economic benefit”.

It was also part of a thriving industry. Blood products made up a remarkable 1.6% of American exports in 2016. Since 2005 blood-plasma collections have nearly quadrupled. To critics, this is evidence of a rapacious industry coercing the poor to auction bits of themselves to make ends meet. In fact, plasma, 90% of which is water, is quickly replenished. Giving it has no obvious negative health effects—though the long-term consequences of repeated siphoning have not been fully studied. Strict testing (and later heat-treating) of the extracted plasma ensures that those with communicable…

The Economist: International