Getting paid to sit back and watch TV in a clinic might sound too good to be true, but you might be surprised by how easy (and lucrative) it is to become a plasma donor.
Plasma, the liquid portion of your blood, has infection-fighting antibodies and proteins that can help researchers create life-saving medicines. However, it's in short supply — it can take anywhere from 130 to 1,300 donations to make enough medicine to treat just one patient for one year, according to Vlasta Hakes, director of corporate affairs at Grifols, a pharmaceutical company that makes blood plasma-based products.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to earn extra cash while contributing to medical research, but make sure donating plasma is the right move for you and your health first.
Here’s everything you need to know about getting paid to donate your blood plasma.
Table of contents
- Who can donate plasma?
- How often can you donate plasma?
- How long does it take to donate plasma?
- Are there risks to donating plasma?
- How much money do you get paid to donate plasma?
- Where can I donate plasma for money?
Who can donate plasma?
One thing to know is that not just anybody can walk in and give plasma. There’s a rigid donation process to follow. To get in the chair, you must first pass an extensive medical history screening and pass a medical examination. You don’t necessarily need a spotless bill of health, but there are a number of disqualifying factors.
Can I donate plasma?
Who can donate plasma
- People who are at least 18 years of age.
- People who weigh at least 110 pounds.
- People who are medically screened prior to donating.
- People who test negative for specific medical issues.
Who cannot donate plasma
- People whose blood pressure and iron levels are not within a safe range.
- People who test positive for transmissible viruses like hepatitis and HIV.
- People whose protein and hemoglobin levels fall outside of the desired range.
- Sometimes, people who have gotten a tattoo or piercing within the last 12 months cannot qualify to donate.
How often can you donate plasma?
You can donate plasma more frequently than you can donate whole blood because you get some of your blood back after it's drawn and the plasma is separated from other components like red blood cells, says Amy Efantis, president and CEO of Plasma Protein Therapeutics Association (PPTA), which works with companies that make medicines with blood plasma.
The American Red Cross says donors can give plasma every 28 days and up to 13 times a year, but many private companies follow the U.S. Food & Drug Administration's (FDA) regulation, which allows people to donate plasma once every two days, or twice in a seven-day period with at least 24 hours between donations.
How long does it take to donate plasma?
When you check in for your appointment, a clinic staffer will ask you some routine personal health questions, take your vitals — weight, pulse and blood pressure — and check your blood levels with a finger prick. While you're donating, you can read, watch TV, catch up on work or just relax.
Your first donation will take up to two hours, since you'll need to provide your health history and do a more comprehensive physical exam. Return visits usually take about an hour, but wait times vary by location.
Are there risks to donating plasma?
The blood plasma industry is steeped in controversy. Over the last several years, critics have called out donation facilities for targeting the poorest Americans, and for paying them far less than their donations are worth (as the Atlantic pointed out in 2018, plasma donors help sustain a multibillion-dollar global pharmaceutical industry). When it comes to a donor's personal health, however, the risks are minimal, says Dr. Scott Wright, cardiologist and a leader of Mayo Clinic’s national COVID-19 plasma therapy program.
Side effects of donating plasma
Donating plasma is essentially the same as a regular blood donation — beyond the initial pinch of the needle, you won’t feel much. Drink plenty of fluids before your appointment, and always let the screener know if you've had any recent surgeries or medical conditions or are taking any medications, since all of these activities can lead to medical complications.
Next day side effects of donating plasma
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
Long term side effects of donating plasma
- Those who donate frequently may be at risk of low immunoglobulin levels
- Frequent donors may risk anemia, due to the loss of red blood cells
How much do you get paid to donate plasma?
You don’t get paid for traditional Red Cross blood donations, since experts worry it would encourage donors to lie about their health, and potentially taint the blood supply, for a paycheck. But since blood plasma is mostly used to make pharmaceutical products — not for blood transfusions — donors can be compensated.
The money you receive depends on your weight and location. The more a donor weighs, the more plasma can be collected and the longer an appointment takes — but at most donation centers pay around $50 to $75 per appointment.
First-time donors sometimes get big bonuses, too. At CSL Plasma, one of the largest plasma collectors in the world with more than 270 centers, donors can earn up to $1,100 during their first month.
Payments are added to a reloaded debit card at the end of the appointment and can be used immediately, says Rhonda Sciarra, the director of communications at CSL Plasma. This payment method is typical for plasma donation centers.
Where can I donate plasma for money?
The perpetual need for plasma donations ensures that there are centers all over the country. That’s good news for potential donors, as it means there’s likely a donation center located close to wherever you might be.
You can find a donation center near you by typing in your zip code on most company websites. You can also head to DonatingPlasma.org to find Plasma Protein Therapeutics Association (PPTA) member companies, which produce about 80% of the plasma protein therapies in the U.S., the organization says. Donation centers that meet certain standards, like extra education for new donors, get PPTA's International Quality Plasma Program (IQPP) certification — and you can search for those centers specifically on the website.
Be sure to call your closest donation center before visiting to make sure you qualify and are prepared with the right documents. Thplasma, which is located in Fair Lawn, N.J., requires a government-issued identification card, a social security card or a recent W2 that has your social security number and a piece of mail postmarked within 60 days of your visit (or an electronic bill) that can prove your address.