In America, blood means big business. The North American blood market was valued at $3.3 billion in 2021, according to Global Market Insights Inc.
According to the Census Bureau, blood makes up 2.69% of US exports.
Since there is no substitute for human blood, it can be difficult to meet the demand.
During the Covid pandemic, the Red Cross announced its first-ever national blood shortage crisis.
“There are still sporadic shortages,” Dr. Claudia Cohn, medical director of the Association for the Advancement of Blood & Biotherapies, told CNBC.
An early pandemic shortfall prompted the FDA to relax its restriction, stemming from the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, on accepting blood donations from men who have sex with men. Proponents want the FDA to follow the science and lift the ban altogether, as do countries like Italy and Spain.
“There are still government policies that stigmatize gays and bisexuals and other men who have sex with men and promote the false idea that there is something inherently sick about being gay,” said Jason Cianciotto, vice president of communications and public policy at Gay Men’s Health. Crisis, told CNBC.
A 2014 report found that by giving this community equal access to donating blood, blood supply could increase by 2% to 4% each year.
Grifols, CSL Plasma, Takeda’s Biolife and Octapharma are major players in blood collection, especially plasma, and donors are compensated.
“Plasma donation [centers] advertising $900 for your first month of plasma,” Analidis Ochoa, a doctoral student who studies social work and sociology at the University of Michigan, told CNBC. “Then it goes down. Usually people can make $30 to $50 every time they go.”
Blood donation for compensation is prohibited in most countries, but not in the United States. According to the Niskanen Center, the US supplies 70 percent of all the plasma in the world.
“What I and colleagues have been working on is mapping the location of plasma centers and seeing if there is a correlation between the address of the center and the poverty level of the area. And what we found is that they are, in fact, overrepresented.” are in high poverty areas,” Ochoa said.
She said plasma donation for compensation is becoming an economic coping mechanism.
“The fact that I was rewarded for donating kept me donating because I couldn’t make it otherwise. I couldn’t buy gas. I couldn’t afford my car insurance,” Teresa Clark, a plasma donor, told CNBC. “I can make $650 to $700 a month…and that helps a lot if you have a steady income.”
Watch the video above to learn more about how the strange economy of blood works, why the US is such a major player, and what makes plasma so valuable.