Response to Public Interest in our Plasma Operations

There has been public speculation about plasma collection in Canada and what Canadian Blood Services is doing. We want to clarify.

In Canada, Canadian Blood Services operates the national blood system where donors are not paid. This is not changing.

As steward of the national system, we collect, test, process and ensure the supply of blood components (red blood cells, platelets and plasma) for transfusion. We also collect plasma and ship it to pharmaceutical companies in the global biologics industry to be manufactured into medications, such as immunoglobulins, for patients in Canada. This meets a portion of the demand for plasma-derived medications. Currently, we collect 15 per cent of the plasma required to meet Canada’s demand. The balance (approximately 85 per cent) is purchased through the biologics industry as finished medications, which were made from plasma they collected themselves from donors who were likely paid. This is the model we have now in Canada.

To be clear, we are not selling off or privatizing any part of our business.

Globally, demand for immunoglobulins is outpacing plasma collection needed to manufacture them. This is putting Canada’s supply at risk. On top of this, the COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating supply pressures and highlights the need for Canada to have its own end-to-end supply chain for immunoglobulins, as cross-border supply chains for many essential products continue to be challenged.

To ensure patients’ needs keep being met, we must increase domestic plasma collection so that at least half (50–60 per cent) of immunoglobulins are made from plasma collected in Canada.

In response to escalating risks to Canada’s supply, we have opened five new dedicated plasma donor centres, with six more to follow by 2024, and we are optimizing plasma collection programs at our blood donor centres to collect more plasma. These efforts are on track to improve plasma sufficiency to 25 per cent.

But this only gets us halfway there. More needs to be done.

Informed by a comprehensive risk analysis, with vital input from experts, clinicians, patients and other key stakeholders, Canadian Blood Services is in ongoing discussion with governments and the commercial plasma industry on how Canada can achieve a minimum of 50 per cent sufficiency with urgency. Any options considered must necessarily include controls to ensure plasma collected in Canada is used exclusively to manufacture immunoglobulins for patients in Canada, while also ensuring no negative impacts on Canadian Blood Services’ current and future blood and plasma collections network. Canadian Blood Services will not consider any option that fails to achieve these controls, at a minimum.

Thousands of patients in Canada depend on immunoglobulins to live. Everything we do is to keep our promise to patients in Canada by ensuring a secure supply of suitable products that are safe and available whenever and wherever they need them. In the current global environment, in which plasma and the immunoglobulins made from it are both in short supply, it is incumbent on Canadian Blood Services to consider a number of strategies that help mitigate security of supply risks in the shortest time possible.

To learn more about plasma-derived medications, we encourage you to watch this short video and visit our online explainer plasma and the blood system supply chain.