Lawsuit reveals the lucrative business of selling the blood you donated

By Scott Kaufman
Monday, July 7, 2014 10:18 EDT
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one women studies donated blood on shutterstock
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A recent lawsuit between the Oklahoma Blood Institute (OBI) and a Minneapolis blood broker General Blood has revealed how lucrative the business in selling donated blood can be.

A pint of fresh blood — which is, legally speaking, a pharmaceutical product — sells for between $180 and $300, depending on the market, court documents show. Even expired blood can be sold to research laboratories at a reduced rate. Red blood cells expire 42 days after being donated, but other blood-elements, like platelets, expire in as few as five days.

According to General Blood’s chief executive, Ben Bowman, “the general public — 99 percent of Americans — don’t know that blood is sold.” The industry is utterly dependent upon unpaid donors for its supply — in fact, in most states there are laws that specifically prohibit the sale of blood in order to protect the supply from unscrupulous potential donors.

OBI’s chief executive officer, John Armitage, told The Oklahoman that his organization has “a charitable side, which is trying to motivate people to do an amazing thing to help their fellow man or woman.”

He then qualified his statement, noting that it is also “providing a drug. On the business side of what we do, the comparison is to a pharmaceutical company.

“Technically, we like to say the blood is free, but [hospitals] pay a service charge” for testing and delivery of the blood, Armitage said. “It’s arranged, so it’s a service fee.”

OBI generated $85.6 million via “service fees” for the tax year ending March 31, 2013, The Oklahoman reported.

The source of the legal conflict between OBI and General Blood is non-payment of a $426,302 that OBI claims General Blood owes for blood that was not delivered. General Blood claims that it stopped doing business with OBI after the company violated a non-disclosure and confidentiality agreement that cost General Blood a $14 million contract with a Utah laboratory.

["One woman studied in the laboratory, the donated blood" on Shutterstock]

Scott Kaufman
Scott Kaufman
Scott Eric Kaufman is the proprietor of the AV Club's Internet Film School and, in addition to Raw Story, also writes for Lawyers, Guns & Money. He earned a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Irvine in 2008.
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