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Canadian Blood Services does not, and will not, pay donors

Canadian Blood Services does not and will not pay donors for blood, plasma or any other kind of donation.

Many headlines lately have stated Canadian Blood Services has not ruled out paying donors. These headlines are remarkably misleading.

The reality is this: it has never been our practice, and it is not our plan to pay donors. 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 plasma

A private, for-profit company recently opened in Saskatoon. It offers donors a $25 gift card in exchange for donating plasma. We do not purchase plasma from this company, and we have no contract or obligation to do business with them.

Rather, our plan is to significantly expand our plasma collections to ensure 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.

Paying for blood donations 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 fulfils 100 per cent of the need for blood, thanks to dedicated volunteer, unpaid donors.

When a patient needs a blood in Canada, it’s there because Canadian Blood Services collects it from a volunteer, unpaid donor; manufactures it; ensures the product’s safety and quality; and distributes it to hospitals. None of the blood used for transfusions comes from paid donors.

Plasma protein products

The current debate is about paying for the plasma used to make highly specialized drugs known as plasma protein products.

Paying donors for the plasma used to make these products is not a safety issue.

The plasma industry’s experience over the last three decades shows that drugs made from plasma donated by paid donors are as safe as plasma products made from plasma donated by volunteer donors. Collection practices for paid donations adhere to a comprehensive set of regulatory requirements, no different than what we have in the voluntary, non-remunerated blood system, as well as voluntary industry standards.

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.

Security of supply

As the publicly funded and publicly accountable steward for the blood system in Canada, Canadian Blood Services has been monitoring and analyzing plasma sufficiency needs in this country. Our ongoing analysis shows Canada’s, and the world’s, dependence on plasma from the United States is a considerable and growing risk. There are increasing concerns worldwide about the ability of the U.S. plasma collection industry to continue to meet growing global demand for plasma protein products.

Today, the amount of plasma we collect only meets only about 25 per cent of the need for intravenous immune globulins (IVIG), the plasma protein products in highest demand by patients. The other 75 per cent of the products we buy comes from plasma donated by paid donors in the United States. Without this system, patients who depend on these drugs would not have ready access to the therapies they need.

The degree to which we currently rely on the U.S. market makes Canada, and Canadian patients, vulnerable in the event of a disruption in supply. Should no mitigating actions be taken to increase domestic sufficiency in Canada, this risk will become a reality.

Our plasma strategy

Canadian Blood Services has set a goal to incrementally increase the amount of plasma we collect. Right now, we collect close to 200,000 litres of plasma per year. We will need to collect an additional 400,000 to 500,000 litres per year in the next number of years to diversify our supply and decrease our dependence on foreign sources. Even still, we can’t put all of our eggs in one basket. Being responsible for security of supply also means ensuring we have a diversity of sources to deal with 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.

 

Watch the videos below to learn more about Canadian Blood Services’ role as it relates to plasma and plasma protein products.

 

Is Canadian Blood Services planning on paying plasma donors?

Canadian Blood Services is finalizing a strategy to significantly increase the amount of plasma we collect in Canada. This strategy is premised on a voluntary system for plasma donations.


Are products made from plasma from paid donors safe?

Paying plasma donors is not an issue of safety. The finished products that come from the commercial paid plasma industry are inordinately safe, and there has been no documented evidence of any viral transmission for almost three decades or more from these products.


How much does Canada rely on commercial paid plasma market, which has paid donors?

Only about one-quarter of the immune globulin products we distribute are made with plasma from unpaid donors. The remaining three-quarters of these products are made from plasma from paid donors in the United States.


What is Canadian Blood Services doing to address Canada's sufficiency in plasma?

Canadian Blood Services is in the process of developing a plan to expand the amount of plasma we collect in Canada to make plasma products, which we will discuss with the provinces and territories.


Should Canada be 100 per cent sufficient in plasma?

We have learned that there is a risk benefit to assess to determine an appropriate level of sufficiency versus 100 per cent sufficiency. We have done a lot of work over the last number of years to model an appropriate balance of risks based on a variety of factors.


What is Canadian Blood Services' role in plasma collection?

Canadian Blood Services collects plasma for two purposes. We collect plasma for transfusion directly into patients to treat bleeding disorders, trauma and other indications. We also collect plasma to be used as a raw material to produce a category of drugs called plasma protein products.


What is plasma?