Regina chapter activist Jim Elliott
The Council of Canadians Regina chapter will join with the advocacy group Blood Watch to deliver petitions against paid plasma clinics to the Saskatchewan Legislature this coming March 8. Regina chapter activist Jim Elliott will join Blood Watch executive Kat Lanteigne and others to deliver the petitions.
Plasma is the largest single component of blood and contains over 700 proteins and other substances which are used to make medical products. These products are then used as treatments that can potentially help save the lives of people suffering from burns, shock, trauma, and other medical emergencies.
The Trudeau government approved Canadian Plasma Resources opening a private, for-profit plasma donation clinic in Saskatoon in February 2016.
And Saskatchewan's health minister Dustin Duncan has commented, "We need to be more self-sufficient as a country and I think that this is one way to increase our levels of plasma that is derived from Canadians." A spokesperson for the Saskatchewan provincial ministry of health adds, "Saskatchewan supports the involvement of the public and private sectors in the collection of plasma to meet this patient need."
But Dr. Graham Sher, head of the Canadian Blood Services agency, has expressed concern about these for-profit clinics.
About nine months after the clinic in Saskatoon opened, he said, "We've begun to see some early impacts of having this private, for-profit enterprise operate in our jurisdiction. It is early evidence, but it's certainly consistent with what other countries are seeing when you see large-scale ramp-up of the paid plasma industry side by side with the blood industry. We in Canada are at risk, if we don't collect more of our own plasma, that we're not going to be able to access the global supply of these plasma drugs. We have to collect more plasma, control it, and keep it in Canada for Canadian patients, which the private industry is not obligated to do. They will sell to the highest bidder."
And Lanteigne says, "Right now what's happening is that the private companies are actually putting Saskatchewan at a deficit supply. They're not helping us become more self-sufficient. And so we're very happy that Canadian Blood Services is speaking out, but the government of Saskatchewan and our federal government have to listen. Canadian Blood Services has the sole responsibility to [procure plasma]. And there's no legitimate reason why we should we selling the sovereignty of our donors away to a private company to make profit off the sale of plasma."
Blood Watch has also highlighted that Canadian Plasma Resources offers $25 gift cards to people to give blood plasma and that "this plasma is then exported to the US -- where it can be sold for up to $300 on the international market, reaping huge profits for the private company."
The Council of Canadians, Blood Watch, the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour, and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Saskatchewan are calling on the Government of Saskatchewan to revoke the licence for the Canadian Plasma Resources for-profit plasma donation clinic in Saskatoon.
The provinces of Ontario and Quebec have banned these clinics, but New Brunswick approves of them (a clinic is scheduled to open in Moncton this month), British Columbia is supportive of them (the company is now looking at opening its first clinic in that province in Kelowna), and Nova Scotia has expressed support for them as well.
Council of Canadians health care campaigner Michael Butler says, “Plasma must be treated as a public resource, not an opportunity for pharmaceutical industry profits, There is no reason jeopardize the safety and integrity of our voluntary blood system. Public, not-for-profit, voluntary blood and plasma collection is the safest and most ethical method of collection."
The Council of Canadians has been opposing Canadian Plasma Resources opening for-profit blood plasma collection clinics since March 2013.