Thursday, May 31, 2018

NBU President calls on NB senators to support bill banning paid plasma

The fight against paid plasma in Canada took a major step forward today, when Senator Pamela Wallin introduced a bill to ban payments for blood donations across the country.
If passed, the bill would prohibit companies from giving monetary payment – such as cash or gift cards - to people in return for giving blood.


New Brunswick is one of only two provinces in Canada where a private company – Canadian Plasma Resources – operates a pay-for-donation clinic. Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec have all passed laws banning the practice, however, there’s no law federally.
New Brunswick Union President Susie Proulx-Daigle is calling on all senators from the province to support Wallin’s bill and protect Canada’s national blood and plasma collection system - run by Canadian Blood Services - which is completely voluntary.
The introduction of the bill comes of the heels of the report released last week by the Expert Panel on Immune Globulin Product Supply and Related Impacts in Canada. To say the report is flawed is an understatement. First and foremost, two of the four panel members are from the United States – a country which has embraced this practice – and one of the two has clear ties to the paid plasma industry.


An opinion editorial in the Toronto Star from Amanda Wilson, PhD, the national director of policy and advocacy with the Canadian Health Coalition, does a good job of dissecting the problems with the report including the following:
It also fails to make a convincing case for why partnership with the private sector is a necessary precondition to collecting more source plasma in Canada, ignoring the position of leading global health agencies, including the World Health Organization, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Society, and the European Blood Alliance — all of whom advocate for a 100 per cent voluntary blood donation system.


The panel concludes that “There is no compelling data to suggest that expansion of source plasma collection — whether with paid or unpaid donors — has negatively impacted the whole blood supply.”
However, the concern is not that plasma donations will negatively impact the whole blood supply. The concern is that paid plasma donations will negatively impact voluntary donation levels of both blood and plasma.


CBS has already reported a drop in the most desirable age cohort for blood donors (17-24 years) at their Saskatoon clinic, which they attribute to the presence of a for-profit. Evidence from the U.S. and Hungary suggests a similar trend.
We know we need to increase voluntary donations in our country, however, farming out the job to the private industry is not the right path. In fact, as Dr. Wilson points out, we have a made in Canada solution from the province of Quebec.
In Quebec, the public blood donation agency (Hema-Quebec) successfully implemented a strategy to increase voluntary plasma donation, nearly doubling the amount of plasma sent to fractionation. It did so by establishing new donation centres and initiating a public education campaign on the importance of both blood and plasma donation.
CBS has a proposal to expand the public voluntary donation system; this is by far the best way forward to ensure the security and public accountability of Canada’s plasma supply.


Our country suffered through a tainted blood scandal which killed thousands of Canadians. In its wake, recommendations were made to keep it from happening again. Those safeguards have done their job.
Unfortunately, some of our elected officials have forgotten this part of our history.
Let’s hope our senators do not have the same problem.