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The economics of blood: Gift of life or a commodity?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 August 2006

Panos Kanavos
LSE Health, London School of Economics
John Yfantopoulos
University of Athens and National Centre for Social Research
Christina Vandoros
Janssen-Cilag and National School of Public Health
Costantina Politis
Athens General Hospital “G. Gennimatas”


Objectives: To calculate the costs of blood collection, testing, storage, and transfusion in Greece.

Methods: Costing information was collected from two large public hospitals, in Athens and Crete, that also act as blood banks. Given that private health care accounts for 40 percent of total health spending, the same costs were also considered in a private setting by collecting key reagent cost data from a leading private hospital in Athens. Mainly direct costs were considered (advertising campaigns, personnel, storage and maintenance, reagent costs, transportation costs from blood bank to end-use hospitals, and cross-matching and transfusion costs in receiving hospitals) and some indirect costs (opportunity cost of blood donorship).

Results: Captive donorship accounts for over 50 percent of the national blood supply. A unit of blood transfused would cost between €294.83 and €339.83 in public hospitals and could reach €413.93 in a private facility. This figure may be an underestimate, as it excludes opportunity costs of blood transfusion for patients and the healthcare system.

Conclusions: Blood has a significant cost to the health system. Policy makers and practitioners should encourage its rational use, build on current policies to further improve collection and distribution, encourage further volunteer donorship in Greece, and also consider alternatives to blood where the possibility exists.

© 2006 Cambridge University Press

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