When the tips her husband earned as a waiter began dwindling a year ago, Esmeralda Delgado decided to help support her family.
Twice a week, Ms. Delgado, the mother of three young girls, walks across the bridge from Piedras Negras, Mexico, where she lives, to Eagle Pass, Texas, and enters a building just two blocks from the border.
Inside, for about an hour, Ms. Delgado lies hooked to a machine that extracts plasma, the liquid part of the blood, from a vein in her arm. The $60 a week she is paid almost equals her husband’s earnings…
Hundreds, probably thousands, of Mexicans like Ms. Delgado come to the United States to trade their plasma for dollars. Eagle Pass, a town of 27,000 that bills itself as the place “where yee-hah meets olé,” has two such plasma collection centers. There are about 15 others in border cities from Brownsville, Tex., to Yuma, Ariz…
Based on typical industry yields and prevailing prices, it appears that a single plasma donation, for which a donor might be paid $30, results in pharmaceutical products worth at least $300.
Away from the border as well, many plasma collection centers have historically been located in areas of extreme poverty, some with high drug abuse. That troubles some people, who say it might contaminate the plasma supply or the health of people who sell their plasma.
“Why in the United States do we have to depend on people who are down and out to donate?” says Dr. Roger Kobayashi, an immunologist in Omaha who uses plasma products to treat many patients. “You are taking advantage of economically disadvantaged individuals, and I don’t think you are that worried about their health.”
Dr. Kobayashi, who also teaches at the University of California, Los Angeles, says the collections on the Mexican border skirt the policy aimed at keeping plasma products safe from pathogens by prohibiting imports of plasma. “If you can’t import the plasma,” he says, “why not import the donor?”
RTFA. Long, detailed account of corporate ghouls profiting from the poor.
The story isn’t really new. Just the dynamic size of the business and a business that’s figured out how to import people lower down the economic scale than the poorest Americans.