New Brunswick

After 1 year, pay-for-plasma clinic in Moncton sees almost 300 visits weekly

Moncton’s Canadian Plasma Resources is hitting its one year anniversary and says it’s also hitting it’s weekly plasma collection targets, with 300 appointments weekly, but controversy continues to surround paying for plasma.

Clinic says it’s hitting collection target, but controversy still surrounds paying for plasma donations

Claudet Paquet goes most weeks to Canadian Plasma Resources to sell his blood plasma. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

A year after setting up shop in Moncton, Canadian Plasma Resources says it's hitting its plasma collection targets, making 300 appointments a week with people who want to sell their plasma.

But controversy continues to surround the practice of paying people for their blood plasma. 

The plasma is the yellowish fluid that remains after red and white blood cells and platelets are removed from the blood.

Fresh plasma is used for transfusions, while processed plasma is turned into a variety of pharmaceutical products sold outside Canada.

Claude Paquette said he doesn't mind that his plasma leaves the country. He's happy it's being put to good use. The Moncton man was at the clinic on Wednesday to sell his blood for the 30th time.

"First of all, I do need a little bit of extra money, which helps in a way, but the thing is I'm helping people too."

Paquette, a greeter at a local department store, calls it a win-win situation. 

"I know somewhere down the line somebody's going to be very thankful it's there for them."

The clinic pays new donors $20 for the first visit and $80 for the second visit. Regular donors earn between $30 to $50 per appointment.

Natasha Leaman has sold her blood seven times over three months. She heard about the company through a friend at the coffee shop Leaman works at. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

Natasha Leaman, who also sells her blood, heard about the company through a friend at work.

"She told me I could make a bit of extra money, but the major thing was to donate plasma where they need it the most."

Leaman called the process quick and easy, and she's usually at the clinic for a little over an hour every week.

Barzin Barhardoust, CEO Canadian Plasma Resources, said the roughly 300 people a week who get paid for their plasma represent a good start, but he'd like to recruit more.

"In Moncton, we are at 99 per cent of the target right now. Eventually, we want to get to about 1,000 weekly donations."

Canadian Blood Services, which manages the blood and blood products system in the country, relies on donors and does not pay people for plasma. But it's able to collect only about 17 per cent of the plasma needed to meet national demand. 

Plasma collected in Moncton does not stay in the country. Bahardoust said it is shipped to Europe to be processed because there is no facility in Canada.

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

Despite the need in Canada, the product is "potentially distributed in over 100 countries but primarily in Europe," Barhardoust said.

He said he offered the product to Canadian Blood Services, but the organization has a policy against paying donors in Canada. It does, however, purchase plasma from paid donors in the United States.

Canadian Plasma Resources is operating with permission from the province and under the regulations of Health Canada, but some groups say private plasma collection erodes the public donation system.

Canadian Blood Services said it could not make anyone available to talk about the impact of the pay-for-plasma business on its blood collection.

Kat Lanteigne, executive director and co-founder of Bloodwatch, a not-for-profit organization advocating for a safe, voluntary, public blood system in Canada. (Andy Hincenbergs/CBC)

Kat Lanteigne, with a not-for-profit public blood system advocacy group, said private collection clinics attract a younger crowd.

"We really need the new generation of donors to donate to Canadian Blood Services in order to save the life of a Canadian," said Lanteigne, who works with Bloodwatch.

Lanteigne said there is a bill before the Senate asking that the plasma industry be banned from the country.

"They have too much power when they control the actual source of plasma."

Barhardoust said the company, which runs another clinic in Saskatoon, hopes to open eight new centres by 2021, although applications have not yet been submitted to Health Canada.