Why the U.S. allows companies to pay people for blood plasma : Planet Money The United States is one of the few countries that lets companies pay people for their blood plasma. Why? | Subscribe to our weekly newsletter here.

Blood Money

Blood Money

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Omar Marques/Getty Images
KRAKOW, POLAND - NOVEMBER 10: Bags of COVID -19 convalescents donors are pictured inside a freezer at the Regional Center of Blood Donation and Blood Treatment on November 10, 2020 in Krakow, Poland.  (Photo by Omar Marques/Getty Images)
Omar Marques/Getty Images

Blood plasma is a highly valued commodity with numerous and ever-growing medical uses. While the United States often offshores industries that rely on low-cost labor, in the case of plasma the rest of the world relies on the United States and its thousands and thousands of plasma donors. Two-thirds of the world's plasma needs are met by America's multi-billion dollar plasma industry.

So, how did the United States become the world's leading plasma exporter? The answer lies in America's willingness to allow a practice that the vast majority of other countries do not: paying donors. This cash incentive has created an enormous supply, as everyday people take the opportunity to earn a little extra income.

Today on the show, we look at how the United States got into the blood money business, and if the rest of the world should be following in its footsteps. Or if, instead, it's the U.S. that should change its ways.

Music: "Flying with Fiorenza," "Calm Ruler," and "Endless Party."

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