Blood safety groups want Saskatoon plasma clinic's licence pulled

Groups advocating blood safety want the federal government to stop a Saskatoon company from compensating donors for giving blood.

Canadian Plasma Resources accused of putting collection centres next to methadone clinics, homeless shelters

Blood safety advocates held a news conference in Ottawa Tuesday, decrying the compensation of plasma donors. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Groups advocating blood safety are calling on the federal government to stop the practice of compensating donors for giving blood.

The Canadian Health Coalition and Bloodwatch.org held a joint news conference in Ottawa Tuesday. Both groups are calling on government to revoke the licence for Canadian Plasma Resources. 

Saskatoon-based Canadian Plasma Resources obtained an establishment licence from Health Canada earlier this year. 

Plasma donors are compensated with a $25 gift card or charitable tax receipt.

Canadian Plasma Resources CEO Barzin Bahardoust said the pay-for-plasma business is necessary to address blood shortfalls, given that most plasma protein products in Canada come from compensated blood donors in the United States.

"This is not a safety issue, this is not blood or plasma for direct transfusion," said Bahardoust. "This is plasma strictly for further manufacturing into plasma protein products."

Barhardoust said the pay-for-plasma concept is pretty common around the world, and that a collection centre once was located near a homeless shelter in Toronto, but only because the shelter happened to be near a post-secondary school, which was the company's primary focus.

In a press release, blood safety advocates accuse the company of setting up collection centres next to methadone clinics, homeless shelters and payday loan businesses.

"It is the sole responsibility of Canadian Blood Services to collect all blood and plasma on behalf of the public," said Kat Lanteigne, co-founder of Bloodwatch.org. 

"Selling off a major stake in our blood system contravenes the promise that was made to Canadians in the most fundamental way since our blood tragedy."

Right now, Canadian Plasma Resources has been given the go-ahead to operate by both Health Canada and Saskatchewan's Ministry of Health.

Supporters of the plan say that Canada is very reliant on plasma collected from other countries, and would like to secure a domestic source. Much of the country's plasma is collected in the U.S., where donors are compensated. 

Meanwhile, the Canadian Health Coalition wants the federal government to continue to implement the Krever inquiry's recommendations, which called for blood products to be collected solely on a voluntary, non-compensatory basis.

"I don't understand why Federal Health Minister, Jane Philpott, is allowing Canada to move backwards and jeopardize the safety of our blood system," said the coalition's Adrienne Silnicki. 

"Despite evidence from other countries which show a donor-remunerated plasma system will directly compete with our voluntary system, the federal government has still given [Canadian Plasma Resources] the green light."