In the United States the most profitable business is healthcare. It’s the only country where the wholesale cost of medication ranges from pennies to a few dollars and the sale cost the same medications is increased exponentially, and it’s all due to middlemen known as pharmacy benefit managers. This article isn’t about these legalized criminals, but rather about another: big pharma and it’s unethical recruitment method utilized for profit.
Weekly, thousands of Mexicans cross the border into the U.S. and continue to do so. Even though the trump administration continues to clamp down on most traffic at the border, U.S. immigration agencies have done very little to stop the stream of Mexicans using their B-1/B-2 visas to visit plasma centers to sell their blood plasma to profit-making pharmaceutical companies that lure them with colorful flyers and Facebook ads promising them hefty “cash rewards”, which range from $20 per donation to $40 per donation depending on a person’s weight. The use of such visas falls into the gray area of federal immigration law and people are encouraged not to utilize these documents to sell their blood plasma. Despite these warnings, 1000’s of Mexican citizens cross the border for such purposes. After all, border agents are given a lot of discretion to allow people to enter the U.S. as they see fit. Who’s on whose payroll may be the real question to ask.
The U.S. is the largest supplier of blood plasma. FDA data shows that of the 805 plasma donation centers in the U.S., 43 are located along the southern border, up to 62 miles from Mexico. It’s estimated that at five of the forty-three centers an estimate of 10,000 Mexican citizens donate plasma every two weeks.
These centers rank the highest in donor frequency, toping the list of all centers with people who donate more than 75 times per year! While most centers in the U.S. receive around 1,000 paid donations a week, the centers at the border count more than 2,300 donations per week! These practices translate to a $21 billion global U.S. blood plasma market!
Unfortunately, many donors rely on this market for their living. Why wouldn’t they? The average pay for a typical Mexican citizen is $9 per day, so making between $20 to $40 for a few hours of their time is of course very appealing. Plasma donations have confirmed dangerously low antibody levels in persons who regularly donate at these centers, putting them at risk for serious infections. The ethics of such practices are for the reader to decide.But taking this from a purely capitalistic perspective the U.S. falls short of benefiting. In 2018, the U.S. collected 41 million liters of plasma intended to produce medicine. Around 78% of blood plasma exported from the U.S. ended up in Germany, Spain and Austria, where a large portion of drugs produced are then reimported and sold back into the U.S. So whose really paying for these companies to profit? The taxpayer