November 1, 2019
Plasma donation in Canada is an industry that’s had its fair share of setbacks. Despite a desire to do good and give back to individuals living with immune deficiencies and autoimmune diseases, plasma donation services have been met with protest and political debate. Thankfully, Canadian Plasma Resources has been able to overcome these challenges and we’ve been contributing to the creation of lifesaving therapies since 2016. In fact, Canadian Plasma Resource’s Saskatoon centre collects more plasma than any other blood establishment in Canada, including those operated by CBS or Hema Quebec.
Getting our centres up and running was a step in the right direction for paid plasma in Canada, but we’re still lagging far behind the United States. To this day, we continue to rely on them to meet our country’s demand for plasma.
Canada only collects about 15% of the plasma needed to meet the demand for domestic immune globulin, one of the lifesaving medicines that is made from source plasma. That means we’re currently relying on paid donors in the United States to provide about 85% of our plasma supply. A relatively easy, short-term solution to this issue would be to pay more Canadian plasma donors, but Canadian Blood Services refuses to support paid plasma donations in Canada and prefers to import finished products made from paid US donors.
The lack of proper planning on the part of Canadian Blood Services has led to a shortage of take home immune globulin products in Canada, which means patients who weren’t already on it may no longer be able to access it. Many Canadians rely heavily on take home immune globulin products, and without it, their condition will significantly decline. This can result in issues walking, and for some, even breathing can become laboured.
With people’s health on the line and such a feasible solution available, it simply doesn’t make sense for Canadian Blood Services to block the efforts to make paid plasma donation possible. Paid plasma donations have been proven time and time again to be the only way to ensure a secure supply of plasma. Paid donors in the United States provide over 70% of the entire world’s supply of plasma that is used to create plasma medicine.
Not only is paid plasma donation the only option, but it’s also a safe option. A Health Canada report has explicitly stated that paid plasma donations are just as safe as unpaid plasma donations. Patient groups that rely on plasma therapies have even come out and made their support for paid plasma known.
Despite the overwhelming evidence that has verified the positive effects of paid plasma donations, the previous governments of Alberta and Ontario, as well as the current NDP government in British Columbia, continue to listen to public sector unions that oppose this service instead of the patients that need it. Paid plasma is an absolute must for these patients, and it is something that we will likely always rely on in Canada. We can only hope that Canadian Unions and Canadian Blood Services will have a change of heart and realize that paid plasma donations in Canada benefit taxpayers, donors, and, most importantly, recipients, and this option is preferable to paid donations from the US.