Nova Scotia

Canadian Plasma Resources pays for donations, eyes Maritime expansion

A company that pays for plasma donations in Saskatchewan is hoping to open locations in the Maritimes, but some organizations argue Canada shouldn't be allowing people to be compensated for donating blood products.

Saskatoon location gives people a $25 gift card with each plasma donation

A private clinic in Saskatoon pays people $25 each time they donate plasma. (Getty Images)

A company that pays for plasma donations in Saskatchewan is hoping to open locations in the Maritimes, but some organizations argue Canada shouldn't allow people to be compensated for donating blood products. 

Canadian Plasma Resources, which uses plasma in the production of pharmaceuticals, opened in Saskatoon in February.

Its practice of giving people a $25 gift card with each blood donation has raised the ire of the Canadian Union of Public Employees and has been debated in the House of Commons.

CEO Barzin Bahardoust told CBC's Maritime Noon the company has support from the provincial governments in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and would likely need approval from Health Canada to open more locations. 

Company says demand growing

He said Canada already imports 80 per cent of plasma protein products from private companies in the U.S., where donors are paid. 

"Compensation is here to stay because without compensation there is not going to be enough products for our patients," he said.

"The demand is actually growing rapidly at a rate of five to 10 per cent a year but our supply is fairly flat. Therefore, in a couple of years, if nothing is done, we'll be more reliant on paid donors in the United States."

Plasma, the yellow fluid component of blood, is used in blood transfusions, but processed plasma is also used in pharmaceutical products. It can help stop bleeding, help trauma and burn victim's wounds heal faster and aid people with liver and kidney disease get the protein albumin. 

Bahardoust said his company manufactures products in the same way they do in the U.S., but with the added benefit of creating Canadian jobs. 

Concerns about safety

But one organization is pushing to have payments for blood products banned.  

Kat Lanteigne, co-founder of BloodWatch.Org, which pushed for Ontario to ban paid donations, says the public blood system shouldn't be privatized for companies motivated by profit because it could put the safety of blood products at risk 

"Safety of our domestic supply depends having our national blood operator be responsible for seeing the collection, the testing and the distribution and our drugs for Canadians."

Lanteigne says Canada should be discouraging the American model, instead of adopting it, because she thinks people may donate because they need money.

"In [American] towns and cities where the unemployment rate rests at about 40 per cent, the poor and the most vulnerable citizens of that country are literally being farmed for their plasma," she told Maritime Noon.

Canadian Blood Services says it wants to increase its domestic supply of plasma so it's not as reliant on an international market and is working on increasing the number of clinics that can serve volunteer plasma donors.

Bahardoust says his company has spoken to provincial governments in Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Manitoba to test the waters.

About the Author

Elizabeth McMillan is a journalist with CBC Nova Scotia. Over the past 10 years, she has reported from the edge of the Arctic Ocean to the Atlantic Coast and loves sharing people's stories. She can be reached at elizabeth.mcmillan@cbc.ca

with files from Polly Leger and Maritime Noon

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