Bill 204 Fact Check


Friends of Medicare and other Albertans concerned about the impact Bill 204 will have on our public blood system have been contacting Tany Yao and their MLAs to urge them not to allow this dangerous bill to pass. In response they have been receiving the following standard template letter from both MLA Yao and other UCP MLAs, containing factual errors and misinformation. Friends of Medicare has fact checked this letter to set the record straight: Bill 204 won't help Albertan patients. 

 

Tany Yao's Letter

Friends of Medicare's Fact Check

Thank you for writing to our office to share your concerns regarding Private Members Bill 204. As the sponsor I am honored to have the opportunity to provide you with more information on this matter.
 
About 55% of blood volume is made up of plasma, a component of blood which transports proteins, blood cells, antibodies, clotting factors, and glucose. Plasma is used in the creation of various medicines and therapies for individuals with Primary Immune Deficiency and other blood disorders. In simplest terms, pharmaceutical companies turn this plasma into medications.
We have two different systems for the collection of blood and plasma. For universally accepted safety reasons, blood cannot be paid for. Yet when we allow payment for plasma, it can still compete with and diminish the collection of unpaid blood donations. Mr. Yao ignores this key information.
In Alberta, we purchase approximately $150 million annually from these pharmaceutical companies of these lifesaving plasma products for the approximately 8,000 Albertans who rely on this.
Canada doesn't buy plasma from the large-scale commercial plasma collectors in the United States or anywhere else, we only buy the finished plasma-based drugs. Canadian Blood Services (CBS) sends donated plasma to two contracted fractionators for manufacture, for exclusive use in Canada. Additional manufactured drugs are purchased on the commercial market as per need. A national pharmacare program would help to address some of these costs, by allowing us to collectively negotiate better prices for all Canadians who rely on life-saving plasma products.
In 2019, there was a global shortage of plasma products resulting in many hardships for the approximately 50,000 Canadians who rely on these products. This year, COVID 19 demonstrated that our international supply lines are fragile, and lifesaving supplies and equipment can be impeded from crossing borders to Canada.
MLA Yao identifies the key problem: security of domestic supply. But instead of diverting Canadian plasma to other lucrative markets as his Bill 204 would allow, we need a continued commitment from all provincial governments to support the work already underway by our national blood collector to increase our plasma supply. CBS’ goal is to collect enough voluntary plasma donations for manufacture into plasma products, sufficient to sustain us in the face of a global shortage crisis.
In his presentation on Bill 204, CBS CEO Dr. Graham Sher said the following: “Globally there is a shortage of plasma used to make special plasma-derived therapies. It existed pre-COVID, and it’s exacerbated by the impacts of the pandemic. All countries, in both the public and the commercial sectors, need to collect more plasma. The issue at hand is how we best ensure the domestic security of supply in light of this growing shortage, and we do not believe that the repeal of the Voluntary Blood Donations Act addresses domestic security of supply.”
In Canada, we only collect 13.5% of the plasma needed for vital immunoglobulin products domestically. Out of the 195 countries in the world, only the United States, Germany, Austria, Czechia and Hungary contribute enough plasma to make these vital medicines. This is because these are the only countries in the world that allow compensation for plasma donations. They provide the world with 90% of the available plasma for medications.
On October 30th, 2020, the European Blood Alliance (of which Germany, Austria and Hungary are members) released a statement in response to the impact that COVID-19 has had on our plasma supply available for manufacture into plasma-based medications: “The presence in several European countries of a dual system where commercial operators also collect plasma and offer payment to plasma donors erodes the current community-based, non-remunerated donor population, which is the key element to secure a safe sustainable supply of blood components and plasma for fractionation.”
Though these five countries have agencies that compensate for plasma donations, their non-compensated donations to their public blood banks have higher donation percentages than nations like Canada. It is believed that this is due to heightened awareness.
In the same statement, EBA President, Dr Pierre Tiberghien stated that: “Members States should encourage and provide support to their Blood Establishments to develop efficient plasma collection programmes within the framework of voluntary non-remunerated blood donation. By doing so, Member States will safeguard the access of recipients to both blood components and PDMPs in Europe.”
While MLA Yao and this government would see us opening up our plasma supply to paid collection, and in doing so create a dual system of paid plasma collection and non-paid public collection of plasma and blood, European countries are actually taking the opposite approach, one which would see their members move away from a dual system and instead support public, voluntary, non-remunerated blood and plasma donations.
Health Canada reports that compensating people to donate plasma has not weakened Canada’s blood system or the volunteer donor base and there is no evidence it will. Manitoba has had both voluntary and paid donors for over 30 years while doing it safely and responsibly. Health Canada is also responsible for ensuring safety and regulatory adherence for all plasma collection facilities, public and private.
Additionally, collection of blood in Manitoba has always been and will remain voluntary, while the collection of paid plasma in Manitoba has been a very limited practice throughout its 50 year history, restricted to a rare exception recognized by Justice Krever as necessary. It does not set a precedent to justify widespread paid plasma collection from the general public that threatens our blood collection system. To tell citizens otherwise is pure deceit.
It is important to know that Bill 204 is intended as a patient focused approach with a long-term objective of ensuring a safe and reliable domestic supply of plasma-based medicines.
A private blood supply system contravenes the recommendations of the Krever inquiry, a royal commission struck to look into Canada's blood system following the tainted blood scandal, when thousands of Canadians were infected with HIV and Hepatitis C from tainted blood and plasma products in the mid-1980s to 1990. A key recommendation from this inquiry was the creation of Canadian Blood Services, our national service for the voluntary, non-remunerated collection of blood and plasma.
Bill 204 does nothing to secure Canada’s domestic supply of plasma, and worse, it threatens to irreversibly reduce our domestic supply of blood. Allowing payment for the collection of plasma will only benefit the corporate collectors who will be able to export Albertans’ plasma to an exploitative, multi-billion dollar global market. Despite Mr Yao’s claims, it is clear that this bill is proceeding without even a cursory concern for the impact this will have on our domestic blood supply chain for Canadian patients.
For additional information on plasma and plasma donation please feel free to visit either of these Health Canada pages:

 1. Health Canada information on plasma donation

 2. Health Canada Plasma Myths and Facts

I sincerely hope that this information has helped to address your concerns. Should you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to our office again.
Yes, please do not hesitate to contact Tany Yao and your representatives, and let them know that informed Albertans are against passing this legislation that will undermine and weaken our domestic blood and plasma supply!
► Contact Tany Yao: https://www.assembly.ab.ca/members/members-of-the-legislative-assembly/member-information?mid=0899&legl=30&from=mla_home
► Find your MLA: https://streetkey.elections.ab.ca/skSearchPostalBulk.cfm