After months of controversy and opposition, a private, for-profit clinic that pays donors to give the blood product plasma is now fully operational in Moncton.
The Canadian Plasma Resources clinic was issued its federal licence on July 17.
Donors can visit the clinic at least once a week and receive $25 per donation, which is paid via cash card.
"We are hoping that we will bring this product and sell it through Canadian Blood Services for Canadian patients," said Barzin Bahardoust, CEO of the Canadian Plasma Resources.
But Canadian Blood Services CEO Dr. Graham Sher said last year that the organization was not planning on doing business with Bahardoust's plasma clinic.
"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," Sher said.
How it works
Bahardoust said the plasma collected from donors will be sent to a lab, Biotest, in Frankfurt, Germany, for processing into pharmaceutical products.
"Typically, from the time that the plasma is collected until the first batch of product is created from that plasma is a period between six months to one year," Bahardoust said.
Bahardoust said he hopes to eventually have the processing done at a plant being built in the Montreal area.
He said the plasma creates products that include immune globulin for patients with immunodeficiencies; human albumin, used to treat trauma or burn patients; and clotting factors 8 and 9, used to treat hemophilia A and B.
"A litre of plasma [is] typically worth around $400 from each litre," he said. "The raw material represents about half that added value per litre, so around $200 dollars per litre. What we collect from a donor is around three-quarters of a litre, about $150 in terms of commercial market value."
Concerns over expansion
In a statement, Canadian Blood Services said it is monitoring the clinic in Moncton and another in Saskatoon. The statement said the clinics won't have much impact on the national blood system — unless they expand.
"Canadian Blood Services' concern is different, however, with the expansion of such an operator to multiple sites across the country, or with the potential emergence of additional or larger-scale commercial operators that pay plasma donors," Canadian Blood Services said.
Preys on vulnerable, union says
The clinic has generated opposition for more than a year, and the controversy didn't let up once the doors officially opened.
"This …will erode our public blood collection system, which is a step backward," said Daniel Légère, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees in New Brunswick.
Légère said by offering money for plasma, the clinic is taking advantage of the most vulnerable and poor in the community. He's also concerned about the impact on those with addictions.
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"Money's tight," he said. "People are looking at a way of getting a little extra revenue. And selling your blood plasma is a way of doing that. We've got a lot of people who will go that route."
Plasma clinics are regulated by the federal government.
No measures are being taken by the provincial government to prohibit private, paying plasma clinics in New Brunswick, said Department of Health spokesperson Veronique Taylor.