Canada Blood Services should focus on expanding voluntary donation, not sell out our blood plasma supply to for-profit corporations

Canadian Doctors for Medicare (CDM) is deeply concerned about the contract that Canada Blood Services (CBS) has signed with an international for-profit pharmaceutical company. This move could transform Canada’s blood donation system into one where profit motives compromise the safety and sustainability of our blood supply.

Following the tainted blood crisis, the report from the Krever Inquiry outlined how to manage a safe blood supply. The report was guided by a few key principles including that blood is a public resource, that Canada must take measures to increase self-sufficiency in all blood and blood products, and that no part of the national blood operator’s duties should be contracted out to others.

CBS’s new position appears to be a complete reversal from their previously released plan to dramatically increase public plasma collection. In addition to existing whole blood collection sites, CBS planned to open up dozens of new plasma collection clinics across the country. CBS is currently in the process of opening 11 such sites and had originally planned to open even more in order to achieve 50% domestic supply of blood plasma. This expansion plan was not only in keeping with the findings of the Krever Inquiry, but it also addressed real concerns about our domestic supply of plasma.

It is hard to see how this new supply chain agreement won’t undermine this goal of increased public plasma collection. CBS CEO Dr. Graham Sher has previously gone on the record saying that expansion of for-profit plasma collection would not improve national self-sufficiency in plasma supply.

While CBS is reporting a decline in whole-blood donors during the pandemic, the much-needed supply of blood and plasma flows through the veins of Canadians. Opening up more public donation sites is the solution to the supply issue – not contracting out to private for-profit competitors. In fact, countries throughout Europe are currently adapting policies and strengthening guidelines to move away from the market-driven model for blood products. 

Canadian Blood Services should reverse this decision and instead refocus their efforts on creating more collection sites to support domestic collection of blood and plasma that is consistent with the best available evidence.