Federal panel urging Canada to ramp up efforts to collect blood plasma

OTTAWA — Canada needs to do more to collect and stockpile its own homegrown plasma, the blood component used to make various medical treatments including life-saving drugs known as immune globulins, a federal panel of experts recommended Wednesday.

In its newly released final report, the panel appointed last year by Health Canada was careful to point out it has found no evidence of a looming crisis in the supply of immune globulins, which help the body fight infections, or other products derived from blood plasma.

Nor can it point to any evidence that plasma derived from paid donors is unsafe, the report notes.

Canada — the second-highest per-capita user of immune globulins in the world — is dangerously dependent on paid donors in the U.S., which provide some 83 per cent of the plasma used north of the border, it says. Domestic donations comprise just 17 per cent.

Jurisdictions like the U.S., where paying donors for plasma is allowed, have significantly higher rates of plasma collection compared to others where compensating plasma donors is prohibited, the report says.

Collecting large volumes of source plasma using volunteer donors can be up to four times more expensive than commercial plasma operations, it adds.

“Evidence indicates that, notwithstanding the funding for blood operators to meet collection targets to achieve self-sufficiency, often source plasma programs based on volunteer donors just simply can’t make their targets.”

Private, paid-plasma clinics currently operate in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, where Canadian Plasma Resources — which has an operating license from Health Canada — pays donors up to $50 for each contribution they make. And Prometic, a manufacturer in Winnipeg, has for years operated a source plasma collection centre using paid donors.

Ontario, Alberta, and Quebec have banned for-profit plasma companies; British Columbia introduced legislation last month that would also ban the practice.

The report says there is no evidence that plasma from paid donors — a growing trend in some jurisdictions in Canada — is unsafe.

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