VANCOUVER – Payment for blood and plasma would be prohibited in British Columbia under legislation introduced Thursday.
There are no clinics in B.C. that pay people for blood or plasma and the legislation is meant to prevent any from opening.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said voluntary donations of blood through Canadian Blood Services help save lives.
Similar laws exist in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, but at least one private organization in Canada pays donors for plasma that is sold on the global market.
People who violate British Columbia’s law would be fined up to $10,000 for a first offence, and companies would pay $100,000 for a first offence and $500,000 for each subsequent contravention of the law, the ministry said.
Dr. Graham D. Sher, CEO of Canadian Blood Services, said he’s pleased to see the province support for the national blood-supply system.
“Canadian Blood Services welcomes efforts to help further strengthen Canada’s voluntary, non-remunerated, publicly funded and accountable collection model,” Sher said in a statement.
Rick Turner, co-chair of the BC Health Coalition, said the new legislation will help protect the health and well-being of residents who rely on a voluntary system to collect blood and plasma, the pale-yellow liquid part of blood used for various medical treatments.
“B.C., like all jurisdictions, has a limited pool of potential donors,” he said. “Preventing pay-for-plasma clinics from operating in the province ensures that they will not draw donors away from the voluntary blood system.”
The coalition, along with BloodWatch.org and the B.C. Hemophiliac Society, has advocated for the legislation since 2016, when a private company said it planned to open clinics in the Vancouver area.
Canadian Plasma Resources has clinics in Saskatoon and Moncton and had been in talks with the former Liberal government in B.C.
The company’s CEO Barzin Bahardoust said British Columbia’s ban on compensating people for plasma will mean it must continue to buy from paid American donors.
“We’re relying on paid-plasma donors from the United States for about 85 per cent of the plasma-protein products that we use in this country,” he said, adding the company has considered expanding to Manitoba and Nova Scotia.
He said plasma donors at its two Canadian clinics are paid up to $50 in the form of a tax receipt or a reloadable credit card in that amount.
A tainted-blood supply scandal in the 1980s led to safeguards after thousands of Canadians who received blood transfusions were infected with HIV or hepatitis C. A four-year inquiry headed by retired judge Horace Krever in the mid-90s heard from people who were living with the tragic consequences of contaminated blood.
Health Canada says it’s legal to collect plasma used for manufacturing plasma products from paid donors.
“Paid-plasma donors are critical to ensuring a sufficient supply of blood products in Canada,” the department says on its website.
“In fact, approximately 70 per cent of the immune globulins available in Canada are made in whole or in part from plasma from paid donors,” it says about the preparation used to temporarily provide patients with antibodies if they can’t produce their own.
A Health Canada spokeswoman said an expert panel established to look into the collection of plasma is expected to deliver a report in the near future.
BloodWatch.org executive director Kat Lanteigne said BloodWatch.org made submissions to the panel saying Health Canada has skirted its responsibility to protect the security of the country’s blood supply.
“It’s Canadian Blood Services that’s the official national blood authority, not Health Canada,” she said. “By creating a competitor of collection in order to create these life-saving drugs, what Health Canada has done is in absolute opposition to every single one of justice Krever’s recommendations.”
by CAMILLE BAINS