British Columbia

Canadian Blood Services calls for provincial funding for plasma clinics

Canadian Blood Services (CBS) is asking provincial governments for more funding to help boost plasma donations in order to bolster the country's stock of life-saving drugs.

The organization is hoping for $100 million over six years

Canadian Blood Services wants 145,000 more plasma donors to roll up their sleeves by 2024. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Canadian Blood Services (CBS) is asking the provinces for more funding to help boost plasma donations necessary for a specific, "critical" drug.

On Tuesday, the organization — which handles the blood supply for every province except Quebec — announced plans for 40 new plasma clinics nationwide. 

To make that happen, CBS said it needs $100 million from the provinces over a six-year period.

Plasma-derived drug supply needs boost

In a statement, the organization said it aims to make more of the plasma-derived drug, immune globulin, which is used to treat immune, neurological, and blood diseases. 

Currently, CBS only collects enough plasma to make about 17 per cent of the immune globulin Canadians use, according to CEO Dr. Graham Sher.

Plasma is the yellow liquid that carries blood cells through the body. (CBC)

The rest is largely purchased from U.S. companies that use paid donors.

Sher said the goal of CBS is be more self-sufficient, collecting enough plasma to create 50 per cent of Canada's immune globulin supply by 2024.

About 145,000 more donors will need to roll up their sleeves for that to be a possibility, the doctor said.

Plasma is the yellow liquid that carries blood cells. On its own, the fluid can be used for blood transfusions, or to treat conditions like hemophilia and burns.

Paid donation clinics an issue

In February, a pay-for-plasma clinic opened in Saskatoon, Sask. Donors walk away with a $25 gift card every time they visit.

Canadian Plasma Resources, which runs that centre, said B.C. was at the top of the list for another location.

Such clinics are banned in Ontario and Quebec.

Sher said CBS is continuing to monitor how the practice affects voluntary donations.

"It has had an early, but evident impact on our operation in [Saskatoon] ... we're paying very careful attention to it," he said.

Sher said Canadians leaning towards the cash should think of where their donations will end up.

"Private-for-profit plasma industry isn't obligated to keep the Canadian plasma in the country — they can sell it wherever," the CEO said.

CBS is mandated to keep its donations in Canada, Sher said.

With files from The Early Edition