Red Cross to Charge More for Blood

The nation's hospitals will pay more for blood collected by the American Red Cross, which plans to raise its prices by July to help pay off debts.

Red Cross officials said today that they could not say how much the price would increase nationally.

"Safety and availability is our No. 1 priority," said Jacquelyn Fredrick, who oversees collections and distribution for the Red Cross. "We want to be able to ensure tomorrow's blood supply by investing in today's."

'Critical Blood Shortages'

The Red Cross, which supplies about half of the nation's donor supply, is telling hospitals of its plans to raise the cost of a pint of blood. National officials say the prices are being determined by local blood centers.

Indiana hospitals, for example, have already learned their prices are rising 10 percent to 35 percent.

The typical pint of red blood cell product now costs $130 to $150.

Fredrick does not expect the price increase to affect hospitals' ability to provide blood to patients this summer, but she said, "there are still critical blood shortages in this country."

The extra funds will be used to help pay off roughly $300 million in debt the organization has accrued in implementing blood safety measures, blood officials said.

Since 1996, the cost of the Red Cross collecting, testing, transporting and delivering blood has risen 27 percent. In that same time, officials said, prices for their products have risen 9.9 percent.

The Red Cross has an annual operating budget of roughly $1.7 billion.

Platelets and Plasma Charges Will Not Increase

Officials said they need more money for research and development and to create a strategic blood reserve for emergencies.

The Red Cross collects 6.5 million units of blood a year. The organization collects a half million units of other special donations which may include plasma and platelets.

Prices are expected to remain stable for other blood products, such as platelets used for cancer patients and plasma used to treat hemophiliacs and others with bleeding disorders or immune system deficiencies.

The organization today started a $2 million advertising and telephone campaign aimed at current and lapsed donors.

The Red Cross recently tightened restrictions on donors who have traveled to Europe to guard against the import and spread of a human version of mad cow disease.

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