Donating plasma and saving lives

Annual Report 2020

Donating during COVID-19

“OPI introduced several safety changes to give us donors confidence about hygiene and social distancing,” says Dean, who has continued to donate during the pandemic.

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"I didn’t think about donating until somebody else’s donation saved my wife’s life," says Dean, a retired army officer. "Danica, my wife, was diagnosed with cancer and needed plasma-derived medicine for her cancer treatment. It was only then that I realised how much and how easily I could help to heal and save other people’s lives.”

Plasma collection is the foundation of Octapharma’s business. We rely on our plasma donors to ensure we can continue to produce our life-saving medications for our patients around the world.

Donors give many different reasons for donating and their motivations vary. Some see it as a social obligation, while others think of it as a humanitarian act. For many, like Dean, it’s the realisation that other donors helped a loved one to recover from an illness. “My first donation was back in January 1998 and it felt good to give back,” recalls Dean, adding: “Now I donate twice a week and I would definitely recommend it to anyone.”

 William, another donor who first donated two years ago after getting the idea from his brother-in-law, also now gives plasma twice a week. “I donate because my mother has anaemia,” he says, adding: “There are so many others who are in desperate need – and a simple donation can help them have a better life.”

William, who first donated two years ago after getting the idea from his brother-in-law, now gives plasma twice a week.

Donating during COVID-19

More than 70% of the world’s supply of human plasma comes from donors in the USA, who give plasma at donation centres across the country. As a result, social distancing requirements due to COVID-19 and fears over the disease have weighed heavily on donations in 2020.   

The situation could have been far worse, however, had donation centres in many countries not been exempted from COVID-19 lockdown measures.

Employees at Octapharma Plasma, Inc. (OPI), which manages our centres in the USA, rose to the challenge, working seven days a week to ensure our donation centres continue to operate effectively while doing everything in their power to ensure that donors felt safe.

Octapharma centres introduced stringent new safety measures, including the wearing of masks, increased sanitation and social distancing, to protect both staff and donors, and to allow them all to continue their important work.

“OPI introduced several safety changes to give us donors confidence about hygiene and social distancing,” says Dean, who has continued to donate during the pandemic, adding: “It is just 45-minutes of my time and I really have no issues about it. It all works fine and feels safe.” Like Dean, William has also continued to donate during the pandemic and shares a similar outlook. As he puts it: “As long as you’re following the recommendations of each donor centre, you are safe.”

Doing good feels good

Now donating for over 20 years, Dean likes to cook and enjoy the outdoors during his free time. A grandfather to four grandchildren, he’s a full-time volunteer, working at local animal and homeless shelters when he’s not donating plasma. As he puts it: “Doing good feels good”.

Each of our donors is registered on our Donor Management System where their full name, address, allergies, distinguishing characteristics, medical history and other relevant information is recorded. To become qualified, a donor must donate two times and have acceptable test results for each donation. All donors undergo a screening before each donation to ensure they meet safety requirements defined by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other regulatory agencies.

“Without a doubt, I would recommend being a donor,” says William, who loves to spend his free time with family and enjoys preparing tasty barbecues. “I don’t know anyone personally who needs the medicines my blood helps to produce, but I do know that, by donating, I’m doing the right thing.” Dean could not agree more: “It's such an easy thing to do and it costs nothing but time,” he explains, adding: "None of us can change the world on our own, but we can all do our bit – and that bit, donating your plasma, could give someone a new lease of life. To the world you may be one person, but to one person you could be the world.”

At a glance

Plasma donation process

  • (1) Staff greet donors at front desk. (2) New donors show ID, proof of social security number and proof of residence. (3) New donors are given an explanation of the donation process.

  • (4) Then comes a free health screening and a mandatory medical questionnaire to assure suitability. (5) Unsuitable donors are deferred and, if possible, given another date when they can return to donate. (6) Suitable donors begin donation (40 - 90 minutes).

  • (7) Plasma samples are tested in a scientific lab for quality and safety. (8) Donors are compensated for donation time. (9) Donors can return after 48 hours for a final second weekly donation in a 7 day period.


Annual report