Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Government not asking right questions when it comes to plasma

"Why is it okay to have paid donors from the U.S. and not from Canada?"
This was the question New Brunswick Health Minister Victor Boudreau posed when he was presented with a petition containing more than 15,000 signatures against allowing a pay-for-donation blood plasma clinic to open in Moncton.
The minister has stated this question numerous times when confronted about the issue. As it was when he first uttered it, this is the wrong question to ask.
Instead, the minister and the Gallant government should have been asking some other questions:
Will the blood plasma collected in this clinic help Canadians?
The answer is no.
Canadian Blood Services (CBS) - our national blood and blood plasma system which was created in the wake of the national tainted blood crisis - is the only Canadian entity which can purchase pharmaceutical products made from blood plasma. The plasma it collects from voluntary Canadian donors is processed into medications and is not allowed to be pooled with private plasma collections.
That means the Moncton clinic will be collecting plasma that will be sold on the global market. Because of this, the Gallant government is allowing our supply to be dwindled. None of what's collected by the private company will benefit New Brunswickers and Canadians. This means less life-saving blood plasma-based medications for our province and country.
Does our national blood and blood plasma system, Canadian Blood Services, have a plan to collect more plasma?
The answer is yes.
As it currently stands, CBS collects approximately 30 per cent of the plasma we need as a nation to manufacture the drugs in question. The remaining 70 per cent of the medications needed is purchased from the United States which pays its donors. It's important to note that CBS does not buy raw plasma, but rather medications manufactured from it and sold by pharmaceutical companies.
In a letter dated May 9, 2016 Canadian Blood Services states, "Our goal will be to double the amount of plasma we collect today, from approximately 200,000 litres of plasma per year, to 400,000 to 500,000 thousand litres in the next number of years to diversify our supply and be less reliant on foreign markets. We believe we can do this through voluntary donations and will not be paying donors."
Our government has this letter and knows the intentions of Canadian Blood Services. Provincial governments across Canada fund CBS - New Brunswick's contribution varies by year but was $26 million in 2013-14 and $27 million in 2014-15 - so our government is knowingly trying to harm a system we pay for and weaken the potential donor base for plasma before CBS begins to ramp up its collection.
Why these questions, and the subsequent answers, are not being discussed by our leaders is a mystery. Instead our Health Minister continues to ask, "Why is it okay to have paid donors from the U.S. and not from Canada?"
While it's the wrong question, let's answer it once and for all.
We don't need to pay donors in Canada because our citizens are generous and compassionate people. Our national blood supply is strong because we have dedicated volunteers who truly value giving the gift of life.
Our union has faith in the people of New Brunswick, and Canadians in general, to step up and answer the call from Canadian Blood Services when it comes to blood plasma donation.
Now we have a few questions for our government and since our health minister has not answered the ones we've posed in the past, we will direct them to Premier Brian Gallant:
1. Do you not have faith in New Brunswickers and Canadians to meet the goals Canadian Blood Services has set for blood plasma collection?
2. Since none of the blood plasma collected in Moncton will benefit Canadians, why are you allowing this company to open and undermine the system we depend on and pay for with tax dollars?
3. Your government has said it will not make changes to health care system because New Brunswickers have stated they do not want them, so why is this situation any different?
Thank you for listening Mr. Premier and we await your response.