Health Canada tells us to take a hike as Russia moves to prohibit paid blood donations

Heavens – even Russia is more sensible than Canada when it comes to paid blood donations.

As Health Canada takes a pause and organizes a roundtable on the issue in Toronto next week (of which we weren’t invited), Russia is now prohibiting paid donation except in cases where rare components and blood groups are being donated.

In Canada the issue has come to a boil within the last six weeks after the media discovered Toronto was about to get two private for-profit plasma donation centers that intended to pay $20 per donation. A third is also planned for Hamilton. This is clearly a major shift in how we handle blood donations in Canada, and there had been precisely no debate (beyond the confines of our little BLOG). It also runs counter to the recommendations of both Canada’s own Krever Inquiry and that of the World Health Organization.

Having been at the center of this debate for the past year, you might say we are a little miffed to be sidelined on this. For Health Canada, us unions can wait and make our submissions at a later date.

Of course this is the same Health Canada that inspected Sandoz’s Boucherville Quebec plant and found no issues, only to have the U.S. FDA come in and tell Sandoz to fix their problems or be prohibited from selling their product south of the border.

While Sandoz knew it had to shut down its line well in advance, it failed to give early notice to Health Canada, resulting in significant shortages of intravenous drugs at hospitals across Canada.

The interesting thing about Russia is, once you open yourself to paid donation, its hard to put the genie back in the bottle.

According to ITAR-TASS, Russian donors in Moscow were previously paid 650 rubles (about $20 Canadian) for 100 milliliters (.33 ounces) of blood, and one could donate 400-500 milliliters at a time.

Platelets were estimated at 4,500 rubles (about $140 Canadian) and erythrocytes at 6,000 rubles (about $190 Canadian). The donors also used to receive compensation for additional nourishment at the amount of 1,000 rubles (about $30 Canadian).

The Russians were not happy that they were paying for donations that later had to be rejected, noting that many of their donors were individuals in ‘at risk’ categories.

While Russia feels it is moving into the mainstream of countries that prohibit paid donation (as we plan to move out of the mainstream), they are concerned that they have developed a culture where people will only donate for money. There is a fear this could lead to significant shortages of needed blood product.

The question is, has Canadian Blood Services not figured this out? They have been remarkably silent about these paid donor clinics despite knowing about them for at least as long as we have.

Surely there is also a lesson here. Health Canada, are you really listening? I know, I know, we can make our submission… later.

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