International Journal of Technology Assessment in Health Care


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

Panos Kanavos a1, John Yfantopoulos a2, Christina Vandoros a3 and Costantina Politis a4
a1 LSE Health, London School of Economics
a2 University of Athens and National Centre for Social Research
a3 Janssen-Cilag and National School of Public Health
a4 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.

Key Words: Blood; Blood transfusion; Cost of blood; Public good; Gift; Hemotherapy; Direct and indirect costs; Health policy.