Category Archives: Canadian Plasma Resources

CBS CEO backpedals on paying Canadians for their plasma

The Chief Executive Officer of Canadian Blood Services is doing some damage control by backtracking on the agency’s position on plasma collection.

In an internal blog post last week, Dr. Graham Sher told employees at CBS that he’d like to set the record straight. Sher stirred up controversy recently with his comments on the issue of paying people for their plasma.

CBC reporter Kelly Crowe revealed Sher would not rule out a pay-for-plasma model, if CBS was not able to increase plasma collection in Canada with unpaid donors.  The fact that Sher would even consider such a scenario is unacceptable, and OPSEU has called on him to resign.

Sher’s blog post tries to convince workers he was merely responding to a hypothetical situation, with a hypothetical answer. He tells them, “it has never been our practice, and it is not our plan to pay donors.”

Notice he doesn’t say it will “never” be his plan to pay donors.

In the blog, Sher talks about CBS’s goal of becoming less reliant on plasma-derived pharmaceutical products from the U.S.  These are drugs that are used to treat conditions like immune disorders and Alzheimer’s. He says Canada currently collects 200,000 litres of plasma per year, and that we will need to collect at least double that amount in order to achieve some level of self-sufficiency.

Right now, there is no concrete plan on how CBS will do that.  But Sher says “it may mean building a stand-alone plasma system with a dedicated and specialized staff, recruiting plasma donors in densely populated locations where it makes the most sense to do so, and investing in new infrastructure to support plasma collections.”

That sounds like the kind of system that would be easy enough to convert to a pay-for-plasma model, if at some point CBS says it’s not getting enough voluntary donations to meet its plasma targets.

And how is it that we are all of a sudden in such dire straits, when just four years ago we were overflowing in plasma?  In fact, an abundance of plasma was the justification used for shutting down a Thunder Bay collection centre that produced 10,000 litres a year. The closure of that clinic put 25 people out of work.

This is what the Chief Operating Officer at the time, Ian Mumford, had to say:

“Over the past few years, there has been a consistent downward trend in the demand for plasma and based on our current projections we will need to collect approximately 10,000 fewer units next year.”

Was CBS simply the victim of flawed projections and lack of foresight?  Or is something else going on?

Currently in Canada, there is no licensed processor to convert plasma into various drug therapies.  Our plasma is exported to the United States where it undergoes what is called “fractionation.”  It is then imported back into the country in the form of pharmaceuticals to meet the needs of Canadian patients.

But that could soon change.

Sher says two private companies are about to enter the fractionation business.  Ian Mumford, who left his job as the second-in-command at CBS seven months ago, is now a director of one of them.

In the 1980s and 1990s more than 30,000 Canadians were infected with HIV and Hepatitis C through tainted blood and blood products.  At the time, the Red Cross had been operating Canada’s blood program.  An inquiry was launched to examine what became known as our country’s worst ever public health disaster.  The inquiry was led by Justice Horace Krever and set out 50 recommendations to keep Canada’s blood supply and blood products safe.   The recommendations included:  that blood is a public resource, donors should not be paid, and no part of the national blood operator’s duties should be contracted out.

If Canada wants to be truly self-sufficient in plasma products, CBS should be trying to find a way to process the plasma it collects in-house.  That way, we could have real confidence that the head of the agency is serving the public, and not profit-driven businesses.  We would know that the plasma we are collecting is coming from healthy unpaid donors, that it is processed under the highest standards, and that the pharmaceuticals produced will be used to treat Canadians.

Dr. Sher needs to be reminded of the real reason he has a job.  Canadian Blood Services was established as a result of the Krever inquiry.  Sher should be following Krever’s recommendations to the letter, not making a mockery of them.

Click here to see Sher’s full internal blog. 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



Why are we risking Canada’s blood supply – again?

The tainted blood scandal was the worst public health disaster in Canadian history. In the 1980s and 1990s, more than 30,000 Canadians became infected with HIV and Hepatitis C. This was due to government and bureaucratic failure to protect the blood supply. Tainted blood killed thousands. People are still dying from it today.

In 1997, the Royal Commission of Inquiry headed by Justice Horace Krever issued 50 recommendations to keep Canada’s blood and blood products safe. Public safety, Krever said, depended on five principles:

  • Blood is a public resource
  • Donors should not be paid
  • Canada should be self-sufficient in blood
  • Access to blood and blood products should be free and universal
  • Safety of the blood supply system is paramount

Canadian Blood Services (CBS), a nonprofit organization, was formed as a result of the tainted blood scandal. The CBS’s sole mission is to manage blood and blood products for Canadians (outside of Quebec).  It is based on the recommendations of the Krever Inquiry.

But the federal government has violated Krever’s principles by granting a license to a for-profit company named Exapharma/Canadian Plasma Resources (CPR). It  wants to pay blood donors in Saskatchewan. Plasma extracted from this blood would be exported. The clinic opened for business today.

In 2014, Canadian Plasma Resources (CPR) tried to open three private blood-collection clinics in high-risk areas in Ontario.  After a public outcry, the provincial government shut down the clinics and passed legislation to ban private plasma collection. (Quebec already had similar legislation.)

“The proliferation of private blood clinics in Canada would compound a three-decade tragedy and shatter the efforts made by those brave Canadians who fought to make our blood system safer,” says activist Kat Lanteigne, author of Tainted, a play about the blood crisis.

The World Health Organization (WHO) wants all profit-motivated plasma donations to end by the year 2020. There is too much risk in paid-plasma programs. WHO makes its persuasive case for a purely voluntary system in Towards 100% Voluntary Blood Donation: a global framework for action.

It is well documented by the European Blood Alliance’s (EBA) report in 2013 and by WHO that paying blood donors endangers the safety of the blood supply. Paying for blood draws donors away from our voluntary system. Paying donors attracts higher risk donors. They often lie about their health status to get the money.

In Europe, as reported by the EBA, German blood brokers bussed in poor donors from Poland. The practice has recently been restricted because the blood and plasma show higher infection rates.

In the United States, the economic collapse of 2008 generated a boom in for-profit blood companies. In Flint, Michigan, 100,000 people have been exposed to lead poisoning and legionnaire’s disease via contaminated water. Yet the publicly traded Grifols Company has not closed its paid-plasma centre in the area. It won’t until the U.S. Food and Drug Administration shuts them down.

Canadian Blood Services (CBS) would never allow Flint residents to donate into a public supply.  Not only are they high-risk donors, but they have compromised health and should not be allowed to donate.

Canada is self-sufficient in fresh plasma. Fresh plasma is used in the treatment for cancer patients and burn victims. We can’t afford to have competition in any collection because we will lose donors to our voluntary system. And that could risk the lives of Canadians.

Health Canada must reverse its decision and ban for-profit blood collection.

The chief executive officer of CBS has assured the public that everyone is getting the blood they need. If a shortage were to occur, CBS has the ability to collect more.

Some suggest that blood testing has progressed to where tainted blood can easily be identified.  But the new Zika virus has proven once again how fragile our blood supply is.

Please add your name to the petition to demand the federal government ban private blood collection in Canada.

Significant blood shortage occurring before rival competes for arms

Back in April Dr. Graham Sher appeared unconcerned about having to compete for donors against a rival organization willing to pay for what his Canadian Blood Services receives for free.

The Canadian Blood Services CEO had earlier estimated that should rival Canadian Plasma Resources be licensed to collect and pay for donations of plasma, the impact on CBS’ donations would be in the vicinity of 8 per cent.

That wasn’t presented as an alarm, but to quiet critics – including us – who were raising issues around a proposal to introduce large-scale paid plasma donation in Canada by a private for-profit company.

Just a few months later CBS is now “rallying” Canadians to urgently donate, stating the country is now facing “concerning” shortages of blood due to fewer summer donations. While each summer presents challenges, CBS executive Susan Matsumoto told the media the downward trend is especially concerning this year.

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