Monday, January 9, 2017

A New Year's Resolution for the Gallant government

Each year people make resolutions as the calendar turns over to a new year.

For 2017, the New Brunswick Union is hopeful the provincial government will change its direction when it comes to paid blood plasma donations.

The clinic is set to open sometime this year in Moncton - pending a license from Health Canada. However, a mountain of evidence and facts suggests the Gallant government should not allow this to go forward.

Blood plasma is not the same as blood. While both are collected on a voluntary basis throughout the country by Canadian Blood Services (CBS) - which was created after a thorough review of the tainted blood crisis of the late 1980s - blood plasma takes longer to donate and is a yellow liquid that is used for transfusions and processed into life-saving pharmaceuticals for everyone from haemophiliacs to severe burn victims.

Here are the facts the NBU is hopeful the government will seriously consider in 2017:

None of the plasma collected will help New Brunswickers or Canadians: Canadian Blood Services is the only entity which collects blood and blood plasma on behalf of Canadians. It does not pay donors as one of its core tenets, which was arrived at through the review of the tainted blood crisis. It currently does buy some drugs made from blood plasma collected in the United States. It has stated it will not purchase blood plasma-based products from the clinic in Moncton due to numerous concerns. This means the Moncton company will sell the plasma on the open market to the highest bidder resulting in no benefit to our healthcare system.

It will harm blood plasma collection by CBS: A frequent reason given by Health Minister Victor Boudreau to allow the clinic is Canada buys blood plasma pharmaceuticals from the US which pays its donors. CBS recently announced it will begin a campaign to nearly double its plasma collection in 2017 to as much as 500,000 litres. Given that NB pays its share to help CBS operate - about $25 million per year - why would it allow a competitor to come into the market and siphon off potential donors? The government has yet to answer this question.

A clinic in Saskatchewan, run by the same company, is taking away donors from CBS: The CEO of CBS, Graham Sher, has stated in recent media reports that the pay-for-donation clinic in Saskatchewan has caused confusion in the market leading to a decline in voluntary donations to CBS. Sher said the early evidence is consistent with what other countries have seen when paid plasma businesses enter the market.

Putting corporate interests ahead of New Brunswickers and Canadians: In the end, the company set to operate the clinic in Moncton - Canadian Plasma Resources - and the pharmaceutical giant backing it - Biotest AG - will be the ones to profit at the expense of Canadians.

Taking away much-needed life-saving medications from Canadians, putting corporate interest ahead of health concerns and harming a national collection system already in place. This is what our provincial and federal governments are doing with these clinics.

For the victims of the tainted blood crisis which resulted in the creation of our national blood strategy this sounds eerily familiar. Let's hope our governments come to their senses before history repeats itself.