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Concerns for Pay-for-Plasma Donation Clinics

A partnership between Canadian Blood Services (CBS) and a private Spanish company, Grifols, is set to expand pay-for-plasma clinics in Ontario, with plans for three clinics to open in Whitby, Hamilton, and Cambridge between 2024 and 2025, and two additional locations being considered. This initiative follows a 15-year agreement signed in 2022 aimed at increasing the national blood plasma supply. However, BloodWatch, a non-profit advocating for a voluntary donation system, has expressed concerns over this approach, highlighting the potential dangers and advocating for increased self-sufficiency without resorting to paid donations.

The federal Liberal government’s approval of this arrangement underscores the complex balance between ensuring a secure plasma supply and adhering to ethical standards and legislative intents within Canada’s healthcare framework.

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Plasma, a crucial component for creating medications for various conditions, can be donated through a process similar to blood donation. The planned Ontario clinics will compensate donors for their plasma, a practice that aligns with Grifols’ operating model but is controversial due to concerns over exploiting vulnerable populations and impacting the competition in plasma-derived products. This model is not new to Canada, as paid plasma clinics already operate in several provinces under Grifols and Canadian Plasma Resources.

The collaboration between CBS and Grifols is presented as a strategy to mitigate the global shortage of immunoglobulins and to move towards greater self-sufficiency in plasma supply. CBS currently only meets about 15% of the national demand through voluntary donations, relying heavily on purchases from the global market.

Ontario, along with B.C. and Quebec, has legislation that generally prohibits payment for blood and plasma donations. However, an exemption for CBS under the Voluntary Blood Donations Act allows this initiative to proceed, sparking debate over the potential for-profit privatization of plasma donations and its alignment with the act’s spirit.

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