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Backgrounder: Plasma

Key Facts

  • Plasma is the protein-rich liquid in blood that helps other blood components circulate throughout your body.
  • Plasma supports our immune systems and helps control excessive bleeding, which is why plasma donations are important to help treat bleeding disorders, liver diseases and cancer.
  • Canadian Blood Services collects 100 per cent of all the plasma needed for transfusions in Canada.
  • 17% of the plasma protein products used by Canadian patients comes from plasma from non-remunerated Canadian donors.
  • 4/5 of the plasma products used by Canadians are made from plasma from paid U.S. donors.
  • 50%: Our target for plasma products to be made from plasma we collect in Canada.
  • The world’s need for plasma products will have increased 40% by the year 2020.

Plasma

What are plasma protein products?

All the plasma Canadian Blood Services collects is used for patients in Canada. This collected plasma is used for two purposes:

  • Transfusion: Some plasma is transfused directly into patients to treat bleeding disorders, trauma and other indications. We collect enough plasma to meet 100 per cent of patients’ needs for these treatments.
  • Plasma protein products: Plasma is also used as a raw material to produce a category of drugs called plasma protein products. Large volumes of plasma are heavily manipulated and manufactured into small amounts of finished product. Within this category of drugs, the products in highest demand are immune globulins. These drugs are needed to treat conditions such as immune and bleeding disorders, and trauma and burn injuries. We only collect enough plasma to meet about 17 per cent of the demand for immune globulins. The remaining plasma needed to make these drugs comes from paid donors in the United States.

Growing international demand

Canada, like many countries, relies heavily on the U.S. paid plasma industry to provide plasma-derived drugs to Canadian patients. Without this system, there would be severe shortages of products in Canada and globally for patients who need them. But we rely on that U.S. market disproportionately, and Canada – like other nations – is looking to increase the amount of plasma it collects within its own borders.

There are growing global risks to the security of the supply of plasma and plasma protein products and we continue to adapt our plasma collection plans to address these risks.

Advances in medicine are allowing health-care professionals to better diagnose patients, which can lead to an increased use of products. New medical uses are also being discovered for plasma protein products.

Finally, there are new markets — like China and India — where use is lower at the moment, but has the potential to increase; even a small percentage increase in those markets could have a significant impact. Other blood operators have already taken steps to increase the amount of plasma they collect to ensure a safe supply of plasma protein products for their patients.

The future of plasma in Canada

Plasma, just like whole blood, is a public resource that must be safeguarded for Canadians. There are no guarantees plasma donated to private companies will be used to help patients in Canada.

While paid and non-paid systems have coexisted in the U.S. for decades, we simply don’t know if that could work in Canada. We are increasingly concerned about the impact that for-profit plasma companies that pay their donors may have on Canada’s volunteer, non-paid donor base for blood and plasma.

Canadian Blood Services has always been responsible for ensuring 100 per cent security of the supply for plasma protein products for Canadian patients. The looming risk to the global plasma supply means we need to take action to ensure the security of supply.

In the coming months Canadian Blood Services will begin to significantly increase the amount of plasma we collect from Canadian donors for the production of plasma protein products, as per our voluntary, non-remunerated, publicly funded collections model.

Our role

As the steward of the public blood system, Canadian Blood Services has a proven track record as the trusted supplier of plasma and plasma protein products for patients in Canada. For nearly 20 years, Canadian Blood Services has been mandated to provide Canada with a safe, secure and affordable system of blood and blood components (such as plasma).

Canadian Blood Services has been the connection between the sincere generosity of donors and the heartfelt appreciation of patients. We value and appreciate our donors who voluntarily give of themselves to help patients in need.
 

FOR MORE INFORMATION

To learn more about plasma, please visit Plasma

or contact us at:

Tel: 1 877 709 7773
Email: media@blood.ca