To a patient in need, donated blood is priceless—but to nonprofit blood centers, the precious bodily fluid is worth between $180 and $300 a pint. So says Ben Bowman, CEO of "blood broker" General Blood, which is currently in the midst of a legal struggle with one such nonprofit. The details of the lawsuit, not the root of it (Oklahoma Blood Institute claims General Blood owes it $426,000), are most likely to interest donors, reports the Oklahoman. As Bowman explains, companies like his serve as middlemen between blood suppliers (like OBI) and the entities buying the blood (like hospitals and research labs). "The general public—99% of Americans—don’t know that blood is sold," he notes.
OBI CEO Dr. John Armitage says his company has a "charitable" side that "[motivates] people to do an amazing thing to help their fellow man or woman"; indeed, the company manages blood from some 209,000 donors annually, per the Oklahoman. But he also compares OBI’s services to those of a pharmaceutical company "providing a drug." "Technically, we like to say the blood is free, but [hospitals] pay a service charge" for things like testing and distribution and even the bags the blood comes in, he adds. Those "service charges" helped boost OBI’s bottom line in the tax year that wrapped up on March 31, 2013: According to its IRS filings, OBI made $85.6 million that year; Armitage pulled in $421,561, which he says is in line with what execs at other large nonprofits in Oklahoma City see.