That Blood You Donated Is Being Sold

Lawsuit sheds light on lucrative business
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 7, 2014 12:40 PM CDT
That Blood You Donated Is Being Sold
Ellie Hayden-Skwira relaxes while donating blood at Apollo High School in St. Cloud, Minn., Wednesday March 19, 2014.   (AP Photo/The St. Cloud Times, Dave Schwarz)

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. (More blood sold stories.)

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