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Banking umbilical cord blood costs more than $1.3 million per added year of life

September 22, 2009 |  2:07 pm


Most parents-to-be weighing whether to save their newborn's umbilical cord blood for possible future use understand that such future use is unlikely. But some new numbers could put the matter in perspective.

UC San Francisco researchers compared the private banking of umbilical cord blood against not banking the blood at all. Their conclusion: "Private cord blood banking is not cost-effective because it cost an additional $1,374,246 per life-year gained. In sensitivity analysis, if the cost of umbilical cord blood banking is less than $262 or the likelihood of a child needing a stem cell transplant is greater than 1 in 110, private umbilical cord blood banking becomes cost-effective."

In short, they found that the private banking of umbilical cord blood would probably be a good move only for children with a high likelihood of needing a stem cell transplant. For most children this is not the case.

Here's the abstract, published in the current issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology. The full study isn't accessible to all, so here's the UC San Francisco news release.

Staff writer Shari Roan described some of the issues related to cord-blood banking in two stories published earlier this year:

From February: Cord blood: Banking on false hopes? "Stories like young Dallas Hextell's are spurring more parents to have their babies' umbilical cord blood saved to fight potential diseases -- but many medical groups don't recommend private banking."

And the March follow-up: Cord-blood banking: Worth it or not? "New parents have a lot to consider when choosing whether to bank a newborn's blood."

Staff writer Melissa Healy weighed in previously on the stem cell aspect: Stem cell hope, hype.

For more information, check out this pamphlet from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

-- Tami Dennis

Photo: The California Cryobank storage tank in Santa Monica can hold 2,000 units of umbilical cord blood. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

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Comments (8)

I work at a hospital that routinely collects cord blood for a public bank. In order to collect cord blood, I had to go through many hours of training, and perform numerous collections witnessed by the blood bank staff, before I could be certified. This training is repeated every time there is a change in protocol.

I've seen untrained obstetricians and midwifes attempt to collect cord blood, and it's just not the same as a collection by a trained person in a proper collection lab. 30 cc of blood mixed with amniotic fluid, meconium, bacteria, air and Betadine is not going to be satisfactory for transfusion, no matter how much money you spend to bank it.

We looked it as an insurance policy. Economic times are tough and we saved $250 with Cord Blood Registry with Savings Code M1971. You can use it too. With the advances in medical science, who knows what the stem cells could be used for... for my child, myself or my wife.

Having read the release from UCSF, it is clear that study was done specifically to show that it was not cost affective. Here are a few reasons why. They state only 99 samples have ever been used. If the largest company in the industry has released 127 samples to date, then 99 for the entire industry is false. They also ignore that the most recently published studies put the odds of use between 1 in 3 to 1 in 200 for the child. This already puts the cost/benefit inside the range that UCSF states makes it worthwhile. If Cerebral Palsy alone affects 1 in roughly 300 children or type 1 Diabetes affects 1 in 300 children, then the bar is set at 1 in 300 before you add in the 80 serious diseases currently approved for use in treatment. The worst part is that these studies discourage privately banking, just as they did 15 years ago when the industry started and there were only 5 disease being treated. Do we think that now that there are 80 diseases being treated, that they are going to stop the 2000+ clinical trials for other treatments that will only increase the odds?

In relation to Dr. Munoz and his statement, all the banks run a cell count that they provide to families when the sample is banked. Most banks even set a minimum threshold for samples and will waive the costs if the sample is below the threshold. And finally, the size of the collection, which is typically between 40cc and 60cc does not determine the amount of cells in a collections as a 60cc collection could yield fewer cells than a 40cc collection. As some private banks have been able to do partial sample releases, I would not take his statement that about collections volumes to heart as accurate.

Except that cord blood banking is not a decision based on economics. By this rational, no one should bother to get auto insurance since most people will never use it.

Perhaps this researcher should speak to the 100s of families that have used privately stored cord blood to save their children's lives. Or the families that will eventually use their cord blood. Ask them if the $3,000 investment (covering the next 20 years of storage) was worth it.

At $3 per day, a cup of designer coffee will cost a parent 10 times what they would spend on cord blood storage.

We banked our daughter's cord blood at From the research we did, we found they have all the same certifications and credentials and provide the exact same services for significantly less than the larger banks you see advertised in all the magazines. They have discount specials all over the website and we got a plan that included 20 years of storage for about $3,000 total.

Cost effectiveness regarding future treatment with matching stem cells (which avoids "graft v host disease) doesn't hold water/weight with individuals who want peace of mind regarding future successful stem cell treatment. It is and will be proven effective in the treatment of many diseases and injuries.
The following is irresponsible reporting! "...... if the cost of umbilical cord blood banking is less than $262 or the likelihood of a child needing a stem cell transplant is greater than 1 in 110, private umbilical cord blood banking becomes cost-effective."
Whoever provided the above erroneous information may have mathematical knowledge but the application of that is unknown at this time, due to future predictive factors unknown at this time.
One of the most researched uses for stem cells, is cancer treatment. Statistics show that 1:4 people has some form of cancer in their lifetime!
Neurological applications of stem cell transplantation (much better than adult bone marrow) is also showing increased success in research programs, and for spinal injuries and Parkinson's Disease.
When umbilical cord blood stem cell banking was introduced in Canada, many cities there decided to create their own banking facilities and provide it at little to no cost for families wanting it.
That's because it is very cost effective! Graft v host disease is prevelant in those receiving matching blood type donors' stem cells. That costs plenty to treat, and can result in death of the recipient.
Reporters: check your information carefully, don't rely only on the initials following one medical professional's name, for veracity.

Most cord blood collections are made without adverse consequences. When the stem cells are separated from the umbilical cord blood in the laboratory, extraneous material is left out. Sterility is maintained; and with average physicians or nurses doing it without extra training,
hundreds of thousands of stem cells are preserved successfully. They have been frozen 5 degrees per hour using highly scientific methods, with less than 1% attrition after 45 years.
Mother and baby have 100% possibility of using them; and siblings 50%. Unfortunately
only 12.5% of fathers match their offsprings' stem cells.


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