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Boston Globe Examines Debate Concerning Usefulness, Expense of Storing Umbilical Cord Blood

August 4, 2008
National Partnership for Women & Families

The Chicago Tribune/Boston Globe on Thursday examined the debate concerning the potential benefits for pregnant women to store umbilical cord blood. According to the Tribune/Globe, there are more than 24 companies that offer storage of cord blood for a fee. Some physicians say that some of the companies are "preying" on the anxieties of pregnant women and their partners, the Tribune/Globe reports.

Kimberly Dever -- an obstetrician who spoke during a recent event hosted by ViaCord, a company that offers cord blood storage -- told about two dozen pregnant women at a Wellesley College event billed as the "Ultimate Baby Shower" that cord blood is a source of stem cells that could be used to save their children's lives if they developed a life-threatening disease, such as leukemia. She added that there is great potential for future cord blood treatments. Dever, who was paid $500 by ViaCord to speak, advised women to carefully consider storing cord blood with a company like ViaCord, which charges $2,195 in upfront fees and $125 annually. "You just never know," Dever said, adding, "Cord blood is like life insurance."

According to the Tribune/Globe, a "growing number" of physicians and medical organizations question the cost and value of privately storing cord blood, which some argue has limited applications, such as treating certain rare blood cancers and blood disorders in children. Some researchers say that more research is required before other uses of cord blood are discovered. They advocate instead for a public system in which cord blood is donated for no cost and accessible by all people in need. Private "storage of cord blood as 'biological insurance' should be discouraged," the American Academy of Pediatrics has said. In addition, the American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation does not routinely recommend the private storage of cord blood. ViaCord says it portrays accurately cord blood banking. Of the 160,000 units stored at ViaCord's facility in Kentucky, 119, or about 0.07%, have been requested for treatments for children with diseases such as leukemia and sickle cell anemia, according to the company (Schweitzer, Chicago Tribune/Boston Globe, 7/31).

2008 National Partnership for Women & Families. Reprinted with permission

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