Following the piece I posted earlier this week on the Coalition government’s plans to sell off the UK’s plasma supplies to a private US company, a reader has sent me a link to a really shocking story that I wasn’t aware of before, about a similar phenomenon in the United States which deserves wider attention.
Written by Mark Ames at Alternet five years ago, the story is a bleak and symptomatic symbol of the world that we have constructed, and a reminder that there is really nothing that some companies won’t do to make a profit, especially when no government is willing to do anything to stop them.
Ames describes how the Wall Street hedgefund/private equity company Cerberus Capital made a $1.8 billion profit from extracting and reselling plasma from the poor to the poor.Â This is how it was done.Â Â In 2006 Cerberus paid $82.5 million for a company called Talecris, which operates a number of ‘plasma-milking factories’ on the American side of the US-Mexico border.
These ‘factories’ were advertised on the Mexican side of the border, and located in ‘plasma-farm buses’ on the American side, where poor Mexican migrants wereÂ paid $30 dollars to hook up to a machine which drained their blood to sift out their plasma, before the blood was re-pumped back into their veins.
The plasma was then sold, according to Ames, to ‘ the most desperately illâ€”patients suffering from hemophilia, severe burns, multiple sclerosis and autoimmune deficiencies’ in a US market where plasma costs are so high that ‘ American health insurance companies have been dropping or denying their policyholders in increasing numbers.’
In 2009, Cerberus Plasma Holdings LLC/Talecris opened four new ‘farms’ along the Mexican border that netted a $1.2 billion profit on its original investment. Since Ames wrote that story, Cerberus has sold Talecris to the Barcelona-based Spanish company Grifols SA for $3.4 billion – a sale that has been challenged by the Federal Trade commission (FTC) as a violation of US anti-trust laws.
As a result Grifols has been obliged to sell off some of its plasma holdings to satisfy the commission and open the market to competition.Â Â All these wheelings and dealings have resulted from the transformation of a ‘product’ that ought to be an essential and protected resource into another speculative investment.
In the UK at least, the nation’s plasma supply was protectedÂ – untilÂ the Coalition decided to sell it to Mitt Romney’s former company Bain Capital.Â According to the Independent, the Department of Health ‘ overlooked several healthcare or pharmaceutical firms and at least one blood plasma specialist before choosing to sell an 80 per cent stake in Plasma Resources UK’ to Bain – a private equity and hedgefund company worth $65 billion whose sole interest in its new company will be making money out of it and then re-selling it.
And where will that plasma come from?Â Well it probably won’t be from Mitt Romney or David Cameron’s veins – though if they or any of the other plutocrats and their political servants who are currently running the world ever have a car crash – they might just need it.