Private companies could help boost plasma supply, says Canadian Blood Services

The Canadian Blood Services (CBS) says commercial plasma collectors could play a role in increasing the national plasma supply, while some donors and advocates say the plan should be more transparent.

CBS said in a statement, which was first reported by the Globe and Mailhe was tasked with finding ways to meet the demand for immunoglobulins in Canada and that « dialogue with commercial suppliers is a necessary part of that. »

The CBS statement comes amid continued gaps in plasma collection in Canada. « We have been trying for a very long time to get more and more plasma, to collect more plasma. But like every other country in the world that doesn’t pay donors, we find that we are continually running out of collections, » said Peter Jaworsky. , professor of business ethics at Georgetown University, who grew up in Canada.

Plasma is the protein-rich blood fluid that helps blood components circulate throughout the body. It is used by people with immune deficiencies and rare blood disorders, kidney and liver diseases, various cancer patients and others, according to CBS.

Health Canada states on its website that there is “not enough plasma collected in Canada to meet demand,” with most plasma products distributed by CBS and Héma-Québec being purchased from U.S. manufacturers and made in from plasma from paid donors in the United States.

Supporters say that instead of turning to private collectors, CBS needs to double down on its collecting strategy to meet demand.

“To be clear, there is no shortage of donors in Canada. It’s not a shortage of plasma. It’s an infrastructure shortage,” said Kat Lanteigne, executive director of, a non-profit organization that advocates for a safe, voluntary and public blood system in Canada.

« Because Canadian Blood Services has been slow to roll out its plan, that’s why we’re here today and there’s nothing stopping it from opening more plasma collection centers. »

Kat Lanteigne, executive director of, says CBS needs to be more transparent in its dealings. (Andy Hincenbergs/CBC)

She added that it was a « secret deal » to turn Canadian plasma into a for-profit business.

“They know that private pharmaceutical companies can sell some of that plasma to Canadian Blood Services or some of that product. And that could be the subject of a contract.

« [CBS] also know that the majority of this plasma which [private companies are] is going to collect is going to be sold on the international market,” Lanteigne said.

Plasma supply

CBS says it has ongoing discussions about a national end-to-end supply chain for immunoglobulins to reduce « Canada’s dependence on the global market. » He says it works so that at least half of the plasma comes from donors in Canada.

CBS collects plasma from donors at several locations across Canada, but it collects only about 15% of the plasma needed, according to its website.

A spokesperson also said the organization is on track to reach around 25% by recently opening 11 plasma donor centers in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.

Blood donations are often separated into components. The yellow liquid at the top is plasma, which contains nutrients and immune molecules like antibodies. (Hiep Vu)

For regular donor Tony Reddin, who lives in Bonshaw, Prince Edward Island, hearing about the CAS discussions is heartbreaking.

« I don’t think I would continue to donate to a for-profit company. It defeats the whole idea of ​​donating, actually doing a good deed. »

Lanteigne adds that CBS should have this discussion in public, so people can understand what is at stake.

“It is critical for us as a country to have sovereignty and control of our supply chain through our national blood operator. Basically, this is just a bad trade deal. which puts our supply chain at risk, » she said.

In 2018, an expert panel convened by Health Canada released a report on the long-term national supply.

Its members found at the time that some of the greatest barriers to the use of paid donors for plasma were concerns about the safety of products made from paid donors, ethical concerns about the « commodification of human plasma » and the fact that paying people for plasma would reduce the number of voluntary donors.

In a statement, Health Canada told CBC News that studies have shown that plasma safety is the same between voluntary plasma and paid plasma.

« Therefore, paying for plasma is not a safety issue and is not regulated by the Food and Drugs Act, » the statement said.

Provincial and territorial governments currently decide how plasma is collected in their area. Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia are the only provinces that do not allow paid plasma donations, Health Canada said in a statement.

Buy « cheaper » plasma

The 2018 federal panel also said plasma programs based on volunteer donations cannot meet the nation’s goals.

The report goes on to say that using voluntary donors costs two to four times more than commercial plasma collection, making it « more economical » for jurisdictions to purchase immunoglobulins from the commercial market.

Plasma is used in Canada through transfusions to hospitalized patients or it is made into specific drugs, says CBS. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Plasma is mainly used in two ways in the country: it can be transfused to people directly in hospitals and it can be made into specialized drugs.

In Canada and around the world, the most widely used plasma protein products are immunoglobulins, says the national blood agency.

Jaworski says Canada is currently struggling to get immunoglobulins and says Canada is currently too dependent on the United States for plasma. That’s why it should look at plasma from paid donors.

« It’s a way to ensure that we can have enough therapies for every Canadian patient who needs them, » he said.

The national blood organization says it will provide more information on plans to increase supply « as soon as there is something to share ».


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