Buying plasma from Canadians undermines Canadian Blood Services’ donor recruitment
Ottawa – In the face of donor shortfalls, Canadian Blood Services (CBS) may partner with the giant multinational, Grifols, to pay Canadians to sell their plasma, knowing this will further jeopardize our voluntary donation system.
On June 13, 2022, CBS issued a statement identifying the need for 100,000 new donors to replenish a “critically low national blood inventory.”
“Laudably, Canadian Blood Services pledges to find new voluntary donors. But behind the scenes, CBS is capitulating to the paid plasma industry,” said health safety expert Dr. Michèle Brill-Edwards, Health Canada’s senior physician responsible for the regulation of prescription drugs in Canada from 1988 to 1992.
Small scale for-profit plasma collection centres have operated in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and New Brunswick without CBS involvement since 2016. Paying people for plasma is banned in other provinces, including Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia. The proposed public-private partnership of CBS and Spanish plasma firm Grifols threatens to massively change the way plasma is collected in Canada.
“Once payment to Canadians for their plasma becomes the norm, recruitment of voluntary donors will decline, as experienced in European countries,” warns Dr. Brill-Edwards. Specifically, the security of the Canadian blood supply is especially vulnerable, as blood collection must remain voluntary and cannot be commercialized for safety reasons.
“The drive to increase plasma collection should not compromise CBS’s commitment to unpaid blood and plasma donations, as recommended by the 1997 Krever Inquiry into the Tainted Blood Scandal.”
Dr. Brill-Edwards notes there are other steps that can improve inventories of valuable plasma, such as increasing voluntary collection, controls to prevent overuse, limits on commercialization, and research initiatives to develop new technology for the manufacture of plasma proteins.
“The Canadian Health Coalition remains steadfastly opposed to paid collection of plasma in Canada,” said Pauline Worsfold, RN, chairperson of the Canadian Health Coalition. “Buying plasma from people exploits the vulnerable of our society, and these for-profit collection centres are akin to payday loans and pawn shops.”
The Canadian Health Coalition comprises community groups, researchers, and frontline health care workers’ unions.