Are Paid Plasma Companies and their Advocates Harming Our Voluntary System?

Are Paid Plasma Companies and their Advocates Harming Our Voluntary System?

It looks like the answer is yes.

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Friends of Medicare Executive Director Sandra Azocar & CBS CEO Dr. Graham Sher
at the June 2016 CBS Board Meeting in Winnipeg.

Canadian Blood Services (CBS), who are the sole collector of blood and plasma for Canadian use, had something to say about this just before the holidays.

In a December 21 CBC article, Canadian Blood Services CEO Dr. Graham Sher said:

"We have to collect more plasma, control it, and keep it in Canada for Canadian patients, which the private industry is not obligated to do. They will sell to the highest bidder."

Global News reported on January 2 that "Canadian Blood Services in Saskatoon has seen a decrease in donations for its fiscal year.

The clinic, located on Emerson Avenue, is collecting 126 fewer units of blood per month. They’ve also seen about 93 fewer new donors each month than required."

Part of the misleading debate in support of selling blood plasma in Canada and Alberta has centered around the idea that we should be doing everything we can to collect plasma which is used to derive needed medications – including paying people for it. The problem as outlined by Sher is that those companies are under no obligation to use the plasma they profit from for Canadians.

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Canadian Blood Services has been clear – they do not intend to purchase any of the plasma purchased from vulnerable Canadians by Canadian Plasma Resources. Supporting profitable blood brokers in Canada will not help with Canadian supply, and it will not reduce our reliance on American paid plasma.

Remember that among others, the Krever Inquiry into the 1980s tainted blood scandal, the World Health Organization, and many others, have recommended against paying donors for blood or plasma and moving to a 100% voluntary system.

However, even if you want to ignore those recommendations and are focused solely on costs, you should still support a ban on paid plasma.

Here’s why: Canadian Blood Services have stated they plan on opening dozens of collection centres which will greatly increase their voluntary collection in Canada. This will reduce our reliance on American paid plasma, and the ups and downs of currency values across the border. These plans will be harmed if we allow a parallel, private, for-profit paid system to co-exist, as Canadian Blood Services will be competing with brokers like Canadian Plasma Resources for donors, having to sink more money into advertising and other voluntary donor recruitment strategies.

Remember that through 2016 the Wildrose were advocating for paid plasma to be brought to our province. The New Brunswick government is allowing a for-profit collection site to open in Moncton, and British Columbia may be next. At the same time we are pleased that the Alberta NDP Government have been firm that they want to support and protect our voluntary system.

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We learned from the Ontario experience that Canadian Plasma Resources (CPR) opened up shop without provincial approval, and had operated for months before legislation could be passed.

We hope to see the Alberta NDP put action behind their position and introduce legislation similar to Ontario’s Voluntary Blood Donations Act. It is the only way to guarantee CPR does not set foot in our province, and a great way to lend support to the advocates who are fighting in their own provinces to protect our voluntary blood and plasma system.

How can you help?

  1. Download and sign our petition calling for the Alberta Government to adopt legislation similar to Ontario’s Voluntary Blood Donations Act which would ban the sale of plasma in Alberta.
  2. Contact your MLA and ask if they will support this Legislation. Email us at fomcampaign@gmail.com and we can help you organize the meeting and provide information to help make the case.
  3. Keep up to date with BloodWatch.org who are keeping tabs on what's happening in Alberta and across the country. They have a sample letter for you to send to Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman as well as Federal Health Minister Dr. Jane Philpott.
  4. Give plasma! Visit Canadian Blood Services website and book an appointment today. 

And don't forget to support our ongoing work by joining Friends of Medicare with a minimum donation of $10. Every bit helps!