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Update on Prolacta and the International Breast Milk Project

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

I'll be back in the next day or so with my own commentary, but in response to my post questioning the International Breast Milk Project, Jill Youse, the IBMP's founder has issued the following open letter.


Dear International Breast Milk Project Family,

I have some very exciting program updates for you!

Last fall, Prolacta Bioscience pledged to donate the processing of 10,000 ounces of donor milk for babies orphaned by HIV in Africa for the International Breast Milk Project (IBMP). I was thrilled with this pledge because it doubled the amount of our previous shipment.

Oprah’s coverage on the International Breast Milk Project coupled with other prominent news stories caused a ripple effect that no one could have imagined. To date, we have collected nearly 55,000 ounces of breast milk.

This overwhelming response from generous donors and supporters like you has enabled International Breast Milk Project to expand its reach. Last week, Prolacta Bioscience agreed to process and test even more donated breast milk for free. 25% of all donated breast milk—an estimated 25,000 ounces each year—will be screened, tested, and shipped by Prolacta each year for free. When you donate milk, Prolacta will segregate 25% of your milk to go to Africa, so every mom knows that some of her milk is going to help babies orphaned by poverty and disease in Africa. The rest of milk will stay in the US for babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Prolacta has also agreed to donate $1 to International Breast Milk Project for every ounce of donated milk that stays in the U.S. Based on current donations, IMBP will receive $50,000 - $75,000 each year, ensuring a sustainable, steady source of funds to build critically needed healthcare clinics for babies orphaned by poverty and disease in Africa, and will provide a vehicle to help local moms donate milk. 100% of every dollar that each ounce of milk provides will go directly to supporting babies orphaned by HIV in Africa.

Ultimately, the vision of IMBP is to make donor breast milk a global norm. Our increased funding will enable us to achieve our goal which is to build critically needed healthcare clinics for babies orphaned by HIV in Africa. These clinics will also serve as a vehicle to help local moms donate milk. Breast milk donated within Africa provides an even more efficient and sustainable source of breast milk for infants there.

IBMP will publish quarterly donation reports on our website www.breastmilkproject.org, so you can track the ounces coming in and the funding going out. You will know that 100% of your milk is making a difference in the lives of babies orphaned by HIV in Africa.

Also, be sure to read through the updated Frequently Asked Questions on our web site, which provides detailed information about how and where your breast milk will be used.

Thank you again for your amazing response and support. Your donations mean a lot to us—and even more to the infants whose lives have been saved by your generosity and compassion.

Thanks,
Jill Youse
IBMP Home Page

INTERNATIONAL BREAST MILK PROJECT
Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is the IBMP a non-profit organization?
o Yes. The International Breast Milk Project is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
o IBMP provides free donor breast milk to infants who have been orphaned by HIV in Africa.

2. How is the milk collected?
o There are several steps:
1. A candidate donor applies online and fills out a medical questionnaire. Once the questionnaire goes through medical review, the candidate is asked to get medical clearance for herself and for her child.
2. After medical clearance is received, IBMP bank arranges a blood test at the donor’s home which is paid for by Prolacta Bioscience. The blood test is performed by a national laboratory. At the same time, the potential donor provides a cheek swab to create a DNA match for the milk. This ensures that only milk from tested donors enters the system. The DNA test was developed and is paid for by Prolacta.
3. Once the blood test comes back clean, the donor is qualified! Prolacta sends a specially designed container and cooling bricks to the donor’s house using FedEx. The donor places the cooling bricks in her freezer for 48 hours in preparation for shipping. When ready, the donor mom places the milk and the cool bricks into the box and puts the prepaid priority FedEx label on the box. One call to FedEx, and the milk is on its way. Prolacta pays for all of the shipping.
4. Once the milk reaches Prolacta, it is tested for the five most common drugs of abuse, for excessive levels of bacterial contamination, and matched using Prolacta’s proprietary DNA matching technology.

3. How is my medical information handled?
o Each candidate is assigned a donor number. This donor number is the only identifying information that the national lab has. The lab uploads the results into the donor tracking management system so names and results are only known by the IBMP bank staff. IBMP bank is HIPAA complaint.

4. How is the breast milk shipped safely to Africa?
o The milk is frozen and sent on dry ice. Prolacta uses the same shipping containers that are used in the pharmaceutical industry to maintain the temperature. These containers have been tested and with the right amount of dry ice, they can hold the milk in a frozen state for seven days. Additionally, the companies that ship the milk, such as Quick International, have the ability to re-ice the shipments if there are delays in transport. To date, the milk has arrived frozen solid!

5. What does Prolacta pay for?
o IBMP bank arranges a blood test at the donor’s home which is paid for by Prolacta Bioscience. The blood test is performed by a national laboratory.
o The DNA test was developed and is paid for by Prolacta.
o Prolacta sends a specially designed container and cooling bricks to the donor’s house using FedEx. The donor places the cool bricks in her freezer for 48 hours in preparation for shipping. When ready, the donor mom places the milk and the cooling bricks into the box and puts the prepaid priority FedEx label on the box. One call to FedEx, and the milk is on its way. Prolacta pays for all of the shipping.
o Once the milk reaches Prolacta, it is tested for the five most common drugs of abuse, for excessive levels of bacterial contamination, and matched using Prolacta’s proprietary DNA matching technology. Prolacta pay for this extensive testing.

6. If the shipment to Africa is full, will I be told in advance of donating my breast milk?
o The shipments will continue as long as the milk for Africa is collected. If your breast milk arrives after the shipment cut-off date, it will simply go into the following shipment.

7. If the shipment to Africa is full, where will my milk go and who will it benefit?
o If you donate, at least 25% of your milk will go to Africa. The other 75% will be used in the U.S. to help critically ill infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Units. Some of this milk will be sold, some will be donated in the U.S., and some will be used in research to demonstrate the benefits of human milk fortifiers made from human milk.

8. If my milk is sold, how much will it be sold for?
o A portion of the milk that is not sent to Africa will be used to make human milk fortifier which is used for critically ill and premature infants. Prolacta produces the only fortifier made from 100% human milk for critically ill infants in the NICU. The fortifier is used to supplement a mother’s own milk. Like many products in the NICU, the cost of human milk fortifier is expensive. Human milk fortifier costs begin at approximately $100 per day per baby.

9. What is human milk fortifier?
o Human milk fortifier is used to increase the caloric content of mother’s milk. Currently, most premature infants are fed bovine (cow) based fortified milk using products made by formula companies. Prolacta’s Human Milk Fortifier is made from 100% human milk.

10. Do the non-profit milk banks sell a Human Milk Fortifier and if so how much does it cost?
o No. The non-profit milk banks do not sell a Human Milk Fortifier.

11. If human milk is perfect food, why fortify?
o By being born early, premature infants miss out on significant in-utero growth. Human milk does not have enough calories and protein to sustain the growth rates required for these babies to catch up with their full term peers. Feeding these babies more volume does not work since their stomachs are too small. The solution to this problem is to concentrate their food. The current standard of care is fortification using cow milk products. Prolacta Bioscience is offering an alternative by making a concentrated fortifier from 100% Human Milk.

12. How is fortifier administered?
o It is added to a mother's own milk, or to donor milk, and fed through a feeding tube.

13. How much of each donor’s milk is processed for Africa?
o At least 25% of the donation will be sent to Africa. Prolacta will also donate $1 to International Breast Milk Project for every ounce of donated milk that stays in the U.S.

14. Why does IBMP allow any of the donated milk to remain in the U.S. for use by a for-profit company?
o IBMP requested this combination of milk and financial support to meet the critical needs of infants in Africa. In order for IBMP to realize their vision of establishing donor breast milk as a norm in Africa, a supply of local donor milk must be established. Based on current donation rates, it is estimated that IBMP will receive $75,000 each year, ensuring a sustainable, steady source of funds to build critically needed healthcare clinics for babies orphaned by poverty and disease in Africa, and will provide a vehicle to help local moms donate milk.
o Prolacta has stepped up to support our efforts. Their organization is also a start-up organization, and the relationship is based on a sustainable model that allows them to donate the services that no other organization can provide.
o Partnering with a for-profit organization allows us to help babies in need in Africa AND to help critically ill babies in the NICU here in the U.S. It is a win-win situation.

15. What will the dollar per ounce be used for?
o This past year we have partnered with the Lewa Children’s Home Eldoret Kenya to bring clean water and healthcare to children orphaned by disease and poverty. We will help fund a healthcare clinic that will break ground in late 2007 or early 2008. We will be shipping the milk to Eldoret and exploring the possibilities of local milk donations. 100% of the dollar per ounce will go directly to aid the Lewa Children’s Home and healthcare clinic. Click here to view the photo album of the home.

16. Does anyone profit off of the IBMP milk?
o No one has made a profit to date; however, the hope is that there is enough profit in the future to continue to expand and support the program. More funds will enable us to build critically needed healthcare clinics for babies orphaned by poverty and disease in Africa as a vehicle to help local moms donate milk.

17. Does Prolacta sell milk online or to the public?
o No. Prolacta provides milk to hospitals only. You must have a prescription for Prolacta’s products.

18. Is it true that IBMP has had 800 donors for the IBMP?
o No. We have had over 800 applicants to IBMP. Currently, there are 275 qualified donors.

19. Why didn't you partner with non-profit milk banks?
o Prior to partnering with Prolacta, IBMP asked non-profits if they could partner with the International Breast Milk Project. The non-profits were very supportive but graciously declined for various reasons.

20. How exactly is Prolacta involved with IBMP?
o Prolacta donates the collection, processing, safety testing, and shipment of the breast milk to Africa. Prolacta uses state-of-the-art formulation (pharmaceutical grade), pasteurization, and filling processes to ensure the highest possible quality and safety of donor breast milk for babies. Their processes include tests for foreign (non human) protein, drugs of abuse, bacterial contamination, and PCR testing for viral contamination. Prolacta has been a pioneer in developing improved methods for all aspects of human milk testing and handling.

21. How much does it cost Prolacta to donate the collection, processing, safety testing and shipping services?
o The cost of collection is very expensive. The cost of collection, processing, safety testing, and shipping make up the majority of the cost of the product.

22. What is the relationship between IBMP and Prolacta?
o 25% of all mother’s milk received will be segregated during the testing process for shipment to Africa. 75% of the milk received will yield a $1.00 per ounce donation in the name of the mom to the International Breast Milk Project. 100% of these donated funds will be used to build critically needed healthcare clinics for babies orphaned by disease and poverty in Africa.

23. What percent of the $1/ounce that Prolacta donates to IBMP milk banks in Africa program goes toward Africa?
o 100%

24. Is it true that Prolacta has profited millions of dollars from donor milk?
o No. Since Prolacta was established in 1999, its commercial sales to date have been less than $1 million dollars.

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  1. Blogger jenny mae. | 5:40 AM |  

    is it just me or is it weird that the last shipment was only 5,000 ounces? maybe she means 5000 more out of what prolacta gleaned from the donor milk? maybe im being a conspiracy theorist here but i think jill is just trying to do some damage control by this press release.

    im so glad you've blogged about this topic and that people are getting into the fine print with these people. i was/am signed up to get my donor kit any minute now. now that i've read all of the information floating around online im sticking with the hmbana

  2. Blogger Amy | 7:47 AM |  

    I'm looking forward to your response, Jen. This whole thing just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. What really caught my eye is the $1.00 donation per ounce of milk Prolacta sells to hospitals. If hospitals have to pay $35 an ounce, that's less than 3% of the selling price.

    Granted, I don't know how much it costs to screen donors and "process" the milk, but if not-for-profit banks can sell it for only a few dollars an ounce, it still leaves Prolacta with a hefty profit for milk that cost them nothing.

  3. Anonymous Erin | 8:34 AM |  

    Jen, I just wanted to thank you for posting about this. I work at a hospital and was setting up to pump one day and that started a conversation with a medical student. She said she had nursed for 8 weeks but couldn't continue due to lack of support from the medical advisors in her program, which is an issue unto itself. Then she made a comment "oh, I know you can buy breastmilk, but it is expensive and who knows where it comes from." I was able to speak knowledgably about milk banking and milk for sale from reading your blog. Thank you.

  4. Anonymous Anonymous | 8:41 AM |  

    While I think Jill's intentions are pure, I do not feel the same about Prolacta. This bothers me...

    21. How much does it cost Prolacta to donate the collection, processing, safety testing and shipping services?
    o The cost of collection is very expensive. The cost of collection, processing, safety testing, and shipping make up the majority of the cost of the product.


    A for profit company knows, to the penny, how much they are spending on collection, procession, safety testing and shipping. "Very expensive" is vague and meant to deflect further questions.

    I also find this statement technically untrue...

    16. Does anyone profit off of the IBMP milk?
    o No one has made a profit to date; however, the hope is that there is enough profit in the future to continue to expand and support the program. More funds will enable us to build critically needed healthcare clinics for babies orphaned by poverty and disease in Africa as a vehicle to help local moms donate milk.

    While it may be true that no one is profiting from the 25% of breastmilk that gets shipped to Africa, or even from the $1.00 recieved for the other 75%, the 75% of breastmilk that gets sold to Prolacta does turn a profit - for Prolacta.

    I'm looking forward to reading your response as well.

  5. Blogger JudyBright | 9:15 PM |  

    Do you have any info on what Prolacta's profit margin is?

    Also, I know how much things cost in a NICU. While I did not have to pay the full price the hosital originally charged, the original price is absurd. It was something like $7000.00 a day. Then they told me they use paper wipes to save money. And my baby came home from the hospital with a raw bottom. But I digress... Just because stuff is expensive in a NICU doesn't make it ok. My baby only needed breathing assistance for one day and was basically monitored and fed the rest of the time. That's like saying it's ok to gouge people because everyone else is doing it.

    Is it illegal for a company to buy breastmilk? I know that blood and plasma is bought by companies. I'm not up on my breastmilk laws :)

  6. Blogger Naki | 7:12 AM |  

    I agree with JudyBright, it does seem like they are price gouging. Almost reminiscent of the gas problem... I understand processing isn't free but this is supposed to help not put a hinderance on the people who really need it. Formula companies are probably loving this. Is there a connection?

  7. Anonymous Jill Youse | 12:36 PM |  

    Prolacta is donating 55,000 ounces to Africa, 100% of all of the milk donated prior to June 1st. Moving forward, we will implement the new model that will help getting funds (and milk) to Africa to help develop health care clinics and local milk banks to best utilize our resources. Thanks for your thoughts and feedback. - Jill Youse

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