Myths and facts - plasma donation

Canadians have access to blood and plasma products that are among the safest in the world, thanks to strict protocols at every stage, including collection, testing and production.

In spite of this, rumours persist that question both the safety and viability of Canada's blood and plasma supply. This page aims to correct some common misunderstandings related to plasma products in Canada.

Plasma supply

MYTH: We don't need paid plasma. We can get all the plasma we need through voluntary collection.

FACT: There is not enough plasma collected in Canada to meet the demand for plasma products. Most of the plasma products distributed by Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec are purchased from US manufacturers and made from US paid-donor plasma, e.g. about 80% of our immune globulin comes from the US. Most developed countries also depend on products made from paid-donor plasma. The current reality is that plasma from paid donors is needed to meet Canadian demand for plasma products.

MYTH: Canada has never allowed payment of individuals who donate plasma.

FACT: Payment for plasma is not a new practice or policy in Canada. For example, in Winnipeg, some plasma donors have been paid for more than 30 years.

Private system

MYTH: Health Canada is attacking our voluntary blood system and trying to shift to a paid “American style” system.

FACT: Canada's voluntary blood-for-transfusion donor system is not changing.

Currently, some provinces allow donors to be paid for plasma when it is collected for use in plasma products.

MYTH: Health Canada is backing private companies involved in plasma donation over voluntary collectors.

FACT: Health Canada has a responsibility, under Canada's Food and Drugs Act, to review all the applications it receives, regardless whether the applicant is a private enterprise or a not-for-profit public organization. In all situations, the Health Canada review is independent and grounded in science and law.

Paid plasma

MYTH: It's up to Health Canada whether payment for plasma donations is allowed.

FACT: Choosing to prohibit payment for plasma donors is a decision under the authority of the provinces and territories. Health Canada works to ensure that all plasma collectors follow the correct procedures to produce a safe and effective product for patients.

Plasma safety

MYTH: Plasma from paid donors is more dangerous than plasma from volunteer donors.

FACT: Modern technology has made plasma products equally safe, regardless of whether or not the donor is paid. There has not been a single case of transmission of hepatitis B, hepatitis C or HIV through plasma products in over 20 years, which includes plasma products from both paid and unpaid donors.

MYTH: The government is violating the key recommendations of the Krever Commission by allowing payment for plasma.

FACT: The recommendations of the Krever report are the foundation of Health Canada's approach to blood and plasma regulation. As a responsible regulator, Health Canada continues to incorporate advances in science and modern techniques, such as those that are now used in plasma product manufacturing, into its regulatory processes.

MYTH: Licensed paid plasma facilities are put near homeless shelters or methadone clinics to attract low-income donors who are higher risk.

FACT: Regardless of the physical location of the plasma operation, the same safety criteria for determining donor suitability are applied and rigorously enforced by trained staff. Plasma donors must provide proof of a fixed home address.

MYTH: Health Canada is making decisions on paid plasma without taking the advice of experts.

FACT: Health Canada's role is to oversee the safety of blood and plasma collected, whether through paid or unpaid donations. Each provincial and territorial government decides if they will allow paid plasma collection.

In 2017, Health Canada established an Expert Panel to provide an evidence-based assessment of the sustainability of Canada's immune globulin supply in an increasingly competitive global market, and of the potential impact on the blood supply if private plasma collection expanded significantly in Canada. Suggestions from the Panel will be carefully examined as we work with our partners in the Canadian blood system to determine the best path forward.

International consensus

MYTH: International consensus is that you shouldn't obtain plasma from paid donors.

FACT: The most recent (2012) Dublin Consensus statement was endorsed by a wide range of organizations representing patients, blood operators, non-profit plasma manufacturers, and various other stakeholders. The consensus principles recognize that plasma from both paid and unpaid donors are needed to meet global demand for plasma products, and that an insufficient supply is a major safety risk to patients.

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