There is a looming threat to the supply of plasma needed to produce Ig for Canadian patients in the future. Today, the plasma supply is sufficient to meet demand, but demand is growing in Canada and globally. Countries need to do more to increase their sufficiency. Canadian Blood Services is responsible for plasma sufficiency in Canada, and we are currently developing plans to significantly increase our plasma collections.
Today, the amount of plasma we collect only meets only about 17 per cent of the need for intravenous immune globulins (IVIG), the plasma protein products in highest demand by patients. The remaining products we buy come from plasma donated by paid donors in the United States, which is not unique to Canada and ensures security of supply for patients. Without this system, patients who depend on these drugs would not have ready access to the therapies they need.
Our vision for plasma collection
Canadian Blood Services has set a goal to incrementally increase the amount of plasma we collect, ensuring we operate in the most effective way, with the right balance of products derived from plasma collected from our voluntary, unpaid donors in Canada and those manufactured from plasma collected from paid donors in the United States. Achieving the right balance is critical to security of supply for Canadian patients, so we have a diversity of sources to deal with potential disruptions or threats.
We believe we can significantly increase our plasma collections through voluntary donations and will not be paying donors to achieve this goal. We are counting on Canadians to help us get there, for all of the patients we serve.
Our stance on paying for plasma
Canadian Blood Services does not and will not pay donors for blood, plasma or any other kind of donation. Though we do receive plasma from paid donors in the United States, it has never been our practice, and it is not our plan to pay donors within Canada. We truly value and appreciate our donors who give of themselves to help patients in need. And we believe more Canadians will volunteer to do so — without the incentive of payment.
Paying for blood donations is not in question
It is important to distinguish plasma donation from blood donation, something many who have weighed into this issue have failed to do.
There is no question and no discussion about paying donors to donate blood. As Canada’s national blood system operator, Canadian Blood Services fulfills 100% of the need for blood thanks to dedicated volunteer, unpaid donors.
When a patient needs blood in Canada, it’s there because Canadian Blood Services collects it from an unpaid donor, processes it, ensures the product’s safety and quality and distributes it to hospitals. None of the blood used for transfusions comes from paid donors.
Is plasma collected from paid donors safe?
The plasma industry’s experience over the last three decades shows that drugs made from plasma donated by paid donors are as safe as those made from plasma donated by volunteer donors. Collection practices for paid donations adhere to a comprehensive set of regulatory requirements, no different to those which exist in the voluntary, non-remunerated blood system, as well as voluntary industry standards.
In addition to screening donors and thoroughly testing plasma, this also involves multiple steps built into the plasma separation process, known as inactivation steps and purification steps. As part of these steps, plasma is rendered through a series of processes that eliminate any living organism, virus, bacterium or pathogen.
All the major patient groups who rely on plasma protein products in this country, like the Canadian Hemophilia Society, the Canadian Organization for Rare Disorders, or the immunodeficiency organizations, agree there is no difference between plasma protein products made from plasma donated by paid donors or plasma donated by unpaid donors, because they are equally safe. Their main concern, and one that we share, is that there be an adequate supply of safe product for the patients who rely on them.
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