Plasma protein and related products program

Since Canadian Blood Services opened its doors in 1998, our program has been the main source of plasma protein and related products in Canada (outside of Quebec). The program is managed by Canadian Blood Services and is funded by the provincial and territorial ministries of health.

There are several reasons why a national program benefits everyone. Learn more below.

Meet Dr. Sylvain Grenier, director of our plasma protein and related products program

Sylvain has spent most of his life in service to others. Now, he’s using his experience as a clinical pharmacist to reshape our program and ensure all patients have access to the medication they need, when they need it.

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As a leader in clinical pharmacy, Sylvain not only brings his wealth of experience and knowledge to Canadian Blood Services but also compassion and empathy.

“We always hear that medicine is an art, while pharmacy is a science. I’m very science-oriented on one hand, but at the same time I really like to have that contact with patients. Pharmacy brings the two together,” Sylvain says. “Patients understand better than anyone what it’s like to live with their conditions, so how they feel is important, and this must be seriously considered in our decision-making.”

In addition to his full-time role as the director of our plasma protein and related products program, he is an adjunct professor with the University of Ottawa’s faculty of medicine, a part-time pharmacist and a member of the Canadian Armed Forces Reserves. This follows a 28-year military career where he served overseas in Bosnia and Afghanistan and retired as national practice leader for pharmacy. As part of this role, he was responsible for the Canadian Armed Forces’ national drug program.

Prior to COVID-19, Sylvain also worked as a clinical pharmacist behind the counter at a small independent pharmacy in Gatineau once a week. There he would connect with people in the community, dispensing their prescriptions and offering health education and advice they can trust. Although the pandemic has put a temporary halt on his work at the pharmacy, Sylvain continues to bring his patient-first mentality to his role at Canadian Blood Services.

“This is the part that I like the most, to be able to help patients,” he says. “Often, pharmacists are the first line of health-care providers where patients can ask questions about anything regarding their health. We are easily accessible to the public.”

An intricate balancing act

Canadian Blood Services is responsible for ensuring a safe and secure domestic supply of plasma, and for minimizing potential risks and impacts of the growing global demand for plasma-derived medications, particularly immunoglobulins. As part of the program, Canadian Blood Services manages a national formulary of approximately 50 plasma protein and related products, which includes bulk-purchasing these medications on behalf of health systems to provide them to more than 700 hospitals and clinics in Canada. Funded by the provincial and territorial ministries of health, the sustainability of this program is vitally important to patient care.

The variety of plasma protein and related products available has significantly increased in the last decade, as has the list of illnesses that can be treated with these products — many being chronic conditions requiring lifelong treatment.

Managing this national program has become an intricate balancing act but it’s guiding purpose remains unchanged. Canadian Blood Services’ priority is to ensure patients continue to have access to consistent, effective and appropriate medications for their care while having a sustainable program for the provincial and territorial ministries of health.

A holistic approach

Since joining Canadian Blood Services’ team in 2019, Sylvain has brought more patient consultation into the product selection process for the national formulary. Representatives of patient groups are included at the table alongside physicians, health-care leaders and Canadian Blood Services’ medical, financial and supply chain experts, as products are considered.

“I think it makes quite a bit of difference when you approach the program as a clinician with the needs of patients in mind rather than just focusing on the products. We recognize that,” he says. “This is why Canadian Blood Services hired a pharmacist to lead the program — to make sure we consider the medical, scientific, economic and social aspects in a more holistic way.

“Ultimately, we select products for the national formulary based on the value they bring to patients in terms of efficacy and safety. Helping people, helping patients, this is our main goal.”

Our strengths

By the numbers

Plasma protein and related products program
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241, 000 L of plasma

We collect plasma from volunteer blood and plasma donors across the country. Some of this plasma is transfused directly to patients, but most is used to make plasma protein products. Each year, we ship thousands of litres of plasma to manufacturers in the U.S. and Europe to make medications exclusively for use in Canada.

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50 products

There are a variety of plasma protein and related products available through our national program. We work to ensure the right mix of products is available for patients at affordable prices for health-care systems.

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730 hospitals and clinics

We work closely with hospitals and clinics across Canada (except Quebec). We provide products directly to hospitals and clinics, so they can dispense to their treating clinicians and patients.

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400 M units for patient care

Demand for plasma protein and related products continues to grow. Each year, thousands of patients in Canada are treated with millions of units (e.g., grams and international units) of plasma protein and related products.