Canadian Blood Services' statement on paid versus unpaid plasma donations

As the publicly funded operator of the national blood system, operating at arm’s length from government, Canadian Blood Services acts in the best interests of the country and the patients we serve.

We understand the opposing perspectives around commercial ‘paid plasma’ donation; however, Canadian Blood Services is stressing the following facts, given our expertise, responsibility, and authority in this matter:

  • Plasma donors who are paid are a significant part of the global industry that countries and patients around the world rely on for lifesaving immunoglobulins. As demonstrated over three decades, advancements in technology and strict standards of regulatory compliance have made plasma products from paid donors as safe as those that use plasma from unpaid donors. All collections centres in Canada—regardless of whether donors are paid—are licensed and regulated by Health Canada. In all situations, Health Canada’s review is independent and grounded in science and law. This includes requirements on donor eligibility criteria and how frequently plasma can be collected from each donor, in addition to donor centre inspections. Donors are valued for their generous commitment to supporting patients in need, and their health and well-being are paramount to the process. Site selection criteria for all plasma collection centres are similar and would include factors such as population size, proximity to post-secondary institutions, access to public transit, and available real-estate.  

  • Commercial plasma collection—and differing provincial policies around it—has been a growing reality in Canada for many years. Canadian Blood Services has consistently said that commercial collection poses a risk to our integrated national blood and plasma collection network if there are no controls on this growth. Voluntary blood donations acts are a control, but there is no consistent legislation across the country. Canadian Blood Services’ agreement with Grifols was purposefully drafted to comply with provincial legislation where it exists, with Grifols acting only as an agent of Canadian Blood Services. The agreement not only caps the number of sites Grifols can open, it also ensures that the plasma collected in Canada is used exclusively for patients in this country.  

  • Canadian Blood Services is necessarily exempt from any legislation related to remuneration of donors. We are responsible for ensuring access to a safe, secure, and affordable supply of blood and blood products in Canada—including medications made from plasma. Exemption for Canadian Blood Services, with consideration of any agent acting on our behalf, recognizes our role as the national blood authority, operator and supplier of lifesaving blood and blood products, regardless of approach to donor remuneration.  

  • As the national authority responsible, Canadian Blood Services is implementing, with appropriate urgency, a comprehensive, evidence-based, risk mitigation plan for Canada, in response to a global shortage of lifesaving immunoglobulins and the plasma needed to make them—a situation which was made worse by the pandemic. This plan increases Canadian Blood Services’ plasma collection through funding provided by governments. It also responds to Health Canada’s 2018 expert panel report recommendation that the commercial sector be leveraged so that all plasma collected in Canada—regardless of whether donors are paid—be used to treat patients in Canada. Our action plan also addresses a critical pandemic lesson by enabling the country’s first domestic, end-to-end supply chain for immunoglobulins, where Grifols will manufacture the plasma they collect from Canadians exclusively for patients in Canada on our behalf.  

Our agreement with Grifols, and Grifols’s subsequent acquisition arrangement with Canadian Plasma Resources, is not about paid or unpaid donors: both already exist and help supply patients with essential immunoglobulins. We are not giving away our responsibility to Grifols. We are not against paid donation, or against the commercial plasma industry from which we have procured safe products for Canadians for decades. Rather, we are protecting the national blood supply system by putting important controls in place that cap where and how much commercial plasma is collected in the country, bringing commercial collection in Canada into alignment with the national system.

This approach protects the blood system, addresses a global shortage of critical medications, and secures a Canadian supply chain of lifesaving immunoglobulins for patients in Canada. This is a necessary and positive outcome for the country. 

For more information, please see our September 2022 announcement on our action plan to bring greater security to Canada's supply of immunoglobulins.

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