calls out minister over for-profit paid-donor plasma clinics

A lobby group fighting to ban paid-donor blood clinics is accusing the federal government of misleading the public. is taking on the Health Minister Jane Philpott, for allowing a private clinic to open in Saskatoon and pay people for their plasma.

In a scathing letter to the minister, co-founder Kat Lanteigne calls for public consultations on paid-donor clinics and picks apart the arguments that Philpott has provided for putting our blood supply at risk – again.

Haven’t we learned from our past mistakes?  Back in the 1990s, a Royal Commission into the blood system, led by Justice Horace Krever, laid bare the mistakes that infected 30,000 Canadians with AIDS and Hepatitis C. We shouldn’t repeat those mistakes.

By allowing Canadian Plasma Resources/Exa-Pharma to open a clinic in Saskatoon, Canadian Blood Services is ignoring key recommendations in Krever’s report.  CBS is supposed to be guided by the principles that blood is a public resource, donors should not be paid, and the safety of the blood supply system is paramount.

Yet our federal Minister of Health is supporting private for-profit plasma clinics!

Read the full open letter from to the minister below:

Dear Minister Philpott, (an open letter)

It is inappropriate to use the office of the Federal Government to spread information that is fundamentally untrue about Canada’s tainted blood tragedy.

There will be no historical revisionism on Canada’s tragic blood story. You are making a mockery out of this situation and it is a great disappointment to our country and to the brave Canadians who fought for the safe blood system we have today.

Your office and your staff need to be reminded that safe blood products were available at the height of the tainted blood crisis but every single vial of tainted blood was distributed across Canada anyway. Every. Single. One. The last 98 vials were sent to Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto and infected young children who were there for care with AIDS. The Red Cross distributed bad blood knowing it was tainted. Health Canada never issued a recall on those tainted blood products and it took years for our government to issue proper trace back calls.

The viral inactivation process existed for over ten years when Justice Krever made his recommendations in 1997 and Canada had access to safe blood products throughout that period. Your argument that no one has been killed in 20 years by a deadly virus through a blood product so it is okay to deregulate and privatize plasma collection is an inscrutable defense. We don’t need another tainted blood crisis to understand the importance of protecting our Canadian voluntary blood system.

Your office continues to reference a small company in Winnipeg that makes a very rare medication to help prevent women from having stillbirths as a reason to allow private paid plasma in Canada. This facility has been in Canada for over forty years and was cited in Krever’s Report as a “rare circumstance”. It was not meant to be used as a precedent for Canadian Blood Services to abdicate their responsibilities of blood and plasma collection.

It is a fact that Germany has experienced difficulties in retaining voluntary donors due to the competitive model of private plasma centers. It is also true that the poorest and most vulnerable population in America are selling their plasma because they do not have enough money for basic needs. Just because we now have to buy blood products from the US made from their model does not mean we need to mirror it in Canada. We should be making progress to do better.

The VISA card that is given out to people from Canadian Plasma Resources can in fact be used by other people other than the recipient. Splitting hairs between twenty-five dollars cash and a twenty-five dollar VISA card as being a “non-cash incentive” is a ludicrous argument and beneath the intelligence of anyone in Canada. The WHO does not endorse paid-plasma. Quoting a representative from CPR whose lobby you are supporting in your letter is utterly shameful. Their private aspirations should never circumvent publicly accessed facts.

I work alongside the top blood lawyers in the country who were instrumental throughout the Krever Inquiry. I can assure you that one of the center points of study was plasma based products and how they are made as FACTOR 8 was the plasma based medication that wiped out almost an entire generation of hemophiliacs in our country and infected many of their partners with HIV and hepatitis C. Who on earth is advising you on this file? Really?

You are putting our public blood system at risk without consulting the people in Canada who have a great understanding of the blood issue. Your government has had no public consultations on this issue and you have outright refused to meet with tainted blood survivors and public health organizations who have a different point of view – one that is geared to benefit the Canadian public and protect the integrity of our blood system.

Dr. Sher from Canadian Blood Services testified in support of the legislation in Ontario and he spoke at a town hall that I hosted and stated he did not want private plasma clinics to do business here. If his position has changed and he is promoting privatization then he should be asked to step down. It is not within his mandate as the CEO of our public blood system to promote private blood collection and the Canadian public does not pay him almost three-quarters of a million dollars to abuse his position.

Canadian Blood Services was born out of our blood tragedy and to contravene Krever’s fundamental recommendations is outright scandalous.

A private blood broker does not help Canadians become less reliant on foreign plasma products, all it does is fracture our public blood system. It is the responsibility of Canadian Blood Services to collect plasma and blood on behalf of the Canadian public regardless of what its intended use is. That is part of our social contract and CBS has a vested interested in the health of Canadian blood donors whereas a private company has a vested interest in their profit margins.

The push by the private pharmaceutical industry to take over plasma collection should not supersede the demands of the public. There is no benefit to the Canadian people to have private blood brokers and paid plasma clinics proliferate in our country. It will not bring the cost of these drugs down and it does not assist us to become more self-sufficient – only Canadian Blood Services can do that.

We are Canadians, Minister Philpott, we sing our own national anthem and write our own health policies in this country. We have no bound duty to adopt American blood policies so that pharmaceutical companies can carpetbag off of Canadian blood.

You have absolutely no public support for your egregious decisions to privatize plasma collection in Canada. Private paid plasma clinics must be stopped now in order to protect the integrity of the Canadian blood system.

Our advocacy will not abate.
Kat Lanteigne
Co-Founder of
All Blood Is A Public Resource



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s