Tuesday, May 16, 2006

For-Profit Milk Banking

Marketplace ran a story today, "Breast Milk for Sale? which addresses milk facilities which operate on a for-profit basis. The Human Milk Banking Association of North America is a non-profit milk banking association - according to the piece, it manages to process donated milk for ~$3 an ounce. In contrast, Prolacta Bioscience, the country's first for-profit milk banking processor, plans to sell collected milk to hospitals at a price of $3/milliliter. For those of you who think gas is expensive, what Prolacta is proposing would be selling milk to hospitals at a rate of ~$11,356 per gallon (quite a bit more than the $384 it costs HMBANA for the same gallon).

Also from the story:
"Prolacta is establishing a network of 10 non-profit milk banks based in hospitals and birthing centers across the country. The centers collect and send the breast milk exclusively to Prolacta to be processed and sold to hospitals. But some women who contacted the national milk banks said it wasn't clear in their literature, on their consent form or on the Web sites that the donated milk would ultimately be sold by Prolacta for a profit. Prolacta's Elena Medo says the company makes no effort to hide the fact it's a for-profit concern and no attempt is made to disguise this from the mothers who donate... While Prolacta isn't paying the donating mothers for their milk, the company is paying the network of hospitals and birthing centers up to $2.00 for every ounce of breast milk they procure exclusively for Prolacta."

The piece did not have any discussion of the ethical implications of this situation, which could be seen as incentivizing physicians to coerce donations in order to obtain money for their employers. Prolacta declined to identify the list of participating hospitals for Marketplace. However, Prolacta's website contains this list of milk banks; a quick check of the first website listed suggests that these are in fact at least a partial list of the milk banks partnered with the company. Among them is the Natchez Trace Maternity Center based in Waynesboro, TN. As an alternative, HMBANA provides a list of locations in their network.

Said Nancy Wright, neonatologist at the Sharp Mary Birth Hospital for women in San Diego, "I think they are setting up a huge collection network. My only concern is are we going to be diverting milk from the existing not-for-profit sector, and I think that's a possibility."

The bottom line: If you want to donate milk and have it go through a non-profit organization, ask questions about the facility before donating.

(See this previous post for additional milk bank information)

Technorati Tags: ;
MeSH Tags: Milk, Human; Milk Banks


Blogger Trisha said...

Wow! I never heard of anything like that before! I don't think I would donate milk to a for-profit organization!

Women's Health Research News

2:07 AM  

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