Government won't ban paid-plasma clinics in N.B.

Critics are intensifying their calls for the New Brunswick government to say no to a company that wants to open a paid-plasma clinic in Moncton. Canadian Plasma Resources compensates donors with $25 VISA gift cards.

Critics say there's no way to tell where finished plasma products will end up

Kat Lanteigne, the executive director and co-founder of BloodWatch, wants New Brunswick to ban compensation for plasma donors. 1:55

Critics are intensifying their calls for the New Brunswick government to say no to a company that wants to open a paid-plasma clinic in Moncton.

Controversy has followed Canadian Plasma Resources from province to province as it tries to open clinics where donors are compensated for their plasma. Donors have the choice of receiving a charitable tax credit or a $25 VISA gift card after each donation.

Kat Lanteigne, the executive director of BloodWatch, which represents tainted blood victims across Canada, says there's no way for Health Minister Victor Boudreau to know the final destination for the plasma collected at a for-profit clinic.

"It's dangerous because it creates a competitor in our market for the blood plasma that Canadians need to stay alive," Lanteigne told CBC News on Tuesday.

"When you are commodifying human tissue and allowing a private company to then sell Canadian blood on the world market, you're taking that away from Canadian patients."

No plans to ban paid plasma

Boudreau told reporters on Tuesday that his government has no plans to follow Ontario's lead and introduce legislation that would ban the compensation of plasma donors in New Brunswick.

The law in Ontario forced Canadian Plasma Resources to shutter three clinics in that province, sending the company further west and east to do business.

New Brunswick Health Minister Victor Boudreau doesn't have any problems with Canadian Plasma Resources opening a paid-plasma clinic in New Brunswick. (CBC)

New Brunswick's health minister has also said he has no issue with a paid-plasma clinic opening in New Brunswick because Canadian Plasma Resources has received a license from Health Canada.

"If they regulate this industry and they believe this industry can operate safely in the country, then why couldn't they do it in New Brunswick?"

Department of Health spokesman Bruce Macfarlane said arrangements are being made to try to set up a meeting between Boudreau and Lanteigne.

Company needs a buyer

Lanteigne is not the only one to question where the plasma will end up after it's drawn from the veins of New Brunswickers.

After it's sent to western Europe or the United States for processing, Canadian Plasma Resources CEO Barzin Bahardoust said he wants to bring the product back to Canada to sell to Canadian Blood Services to increase the country's supply.

Canadian Plasma Resources CEO Barzin Bahardoust said he would prefer to keep plasma collected from paid donors in Canada by selling it to Canadian Blood Services. But Canadian Blood Services doesn't plan to buy it. (Radio-Canada)

"The products will be re-exported back into Canada and distributed to Canadian hospitals for the use of the Canadian patients," he said.

But Canadian Blood Services doesn't want to buy what they're selling and warns New Brunswick to think about where the final product may end up.

Dr. Graham Sher, the organization's CEO, said his stance doesn't stem from a safety concern.

"There is no evidence that paying plasma donors in 2016 results in products that are any less safe than those that come from unpaid donors," Sher said.

Duelling plasma collectors

Canadian Blood Services is concerned because that will compete with its own efforts to attract more Canadian donors to give their plasma.

The organization collects about 200,000 litres of plasma, only 25 per cent of the plasma products that are needed in Canada. The rest is bought from American companies that pay their donors.

Sher wants that number to be closer to 50 per cent, meaning he has to double the amount of plasma domestic donors are giving.

Canadian Blood Services CEO Dr. Graham Sher says the organization has no plans to do business with Canadian Plasma Resources, which compensates donors for plasma. (Canadian Blood Services)

He believes he can do that without reimbursing donors.

But he will have to compete with a company that will pay people for their plasma.

Still, Sher thinks he can reach his goal because Canadians will want their donation to stay in Canada.

"There's a big differentiator between Canadian Blood Services and an enterprise that is for profit, that is paying donors and that is not assuring Canadians that the product is going to stay in Canada to serve the needs of Canadians."

Plasma may be sold in Europe, U.S.

If Canadian Blood Services won't buy from him, Bahardoust said he may sell the product to companies in Europe or the United States.

That would require a new license from Health Canada. The current license only allows Canadian Plasma Resources to sell within Canada.

Bahardoust's goal is to open five to 10 plasma collection centres across Canada before 2020.

While Moncton is the next city on his radar, he is also interested in opening in Nova Scotia. One clinic has been operating in Saskatoon since February, but the plasma product they've collected hasn't been sold to a buyer yet.

Minister met with lobbyist

Boudreau met with officials from Canadian Plasma Resources earlier this year in Moncton.

The meeting was set up by Opportunities New Brunswick. A spokeswoman with Opportunities New Brunswick declined to "speculate on any deals that have not been finalized."

Boudreau said he was invited to the meeting to get a better understanding of how the industry works and what regulations exist.

Canadian Plasma Resources wants to open a paid-plasma clinic in Moncton. Donors could receive a $25 VISA gift card after each donation. (David Donnelly/CBC)

CBC News has learned that one of the people at that meeting was Jim Pimblett, a prominent Liberal who worked as an executive assistant in former Prime Minister Paul Martin's office.

Bahardoust said Pimblett is the company's "government relations and public relations consultant."

Pimblett is registered federally as a lobbyist for Canadian Plasma Resources and its parent company, ExaPharma.

New Brunswick doesn't have a lobbyist registry, leaving the public with no way to tell who is meeting with public officials and trying to influence public policy.

Public records show Pimblett is registered to lobby health officials in Nova Scotia too.

with files from Radio-Canada

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.