In the late 1980s, following the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) epidemic and transfusion-transmitted infections from plasma-derived coagulation factor concentrates to hemophiliacs, many "advanced thinkers" claimed that plasma-derived products would be completely replaced by the year 2000 by safe recombinant products in most developed countries. However, things have not turned out that way, due to both the continual progress witnessed in plasma fractionation and viral-reduction technologies and technical difficulties still being encountered in developing more cost-effective non-immunogenic, fully active recombinant therapeutic proteins. Accordingly, plasma fractionation remains a reasonably healthy industry worldwide, with an ever-increasing volume of plasma fractionated each year to meet the demands for safe and effective plasma-derived medicines at the global level. While high-income countries currently have generally good access to a panel of plasma-derived and recombinant products, desperate shortages of fractionated plasma products remain in developing economies, and patients still have to be treated inadequately. The steady development of the collection of whole blood in developing economies, to gradually cover the recognized needs for red blood cell concentrates, generates an increasing volume of recovered plasma that is currently wasted. Incentives are therefore high for those countries to consider fractionating such plasma as a means of enhancing their supply of products to treat patients, thereby also decreasing the level of dependence on imported products. Challenges of local plasma fractionation in developing economies are high, in a context where the technological and regulatory sophistication of the plasma fractionation industry is often underestimated, and the blood supply may be exposed to emerging infectious agents. In parallel, plasma product quality requirements and drivers are evolving in developed economies as is the awareness of clinicians to newer uses of products such as intravenous immunoglobulins, somewhat deviating from what currently remain the basic needs of developing countries in terms of affordable safe plasma products. Global market trends for plasma-derived products, through plasma fractionation, are still increasing, despite increasing use of recombinant products, and attention is being focused on the five Ws of the fractionation field: which products; where; when; what and how much; and who will be the main suppliers?.
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