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Pay-for-plasma firm eyes B.C.

By Eric MacKenzie



The BC Health Coalition is the latest group calling for the provincial government to ban pay-for-plasma operations like Ontario and Quebec have — despite Canadian Blood Services’ position that the practice is safe.

Opposition to the pay-for-plasma model has sprung up in response to private enterprise Canadian Plasma Resources announcing its desire to expand into B.C. It operates one clinic in Saskatoon, paying donors who provide plasma and using it to produce pharmaceutical products.

The BCHC is echoing the concerns expressed by the province’s Canadian Hemophilia Society chapter last month – that permitting for-profit donation operations poses a safety risk.

“By providing a financial incentive to donate plasma, the clinic could attract donors from vulnerable populations and put the plasma at risk,” states an open letter from the BCHC to Health Minister Terry Lake.

Critics of the practice say for-profit operations go against the recommendations of the Krever Inquiry into Canada’s tainted blood scandal of the 1980s, which saw 30,000 Canadians infected with HIV or hepatitis C. Among the recommendations was the assertion that donors should not be paid.

“We think what’s working well should be left alone,” BCHC co-chair Rick Turner told 24 hours. “The system that we have now that followed Judge Krever’s recommendations in 1997 (has) protected us and worked really, really well in the last 19 years.”

Dr. Barzin Bahardoust, CEO of Canadian Plasma Resources, was unavailable Wednesday but has been firing back at critics, issuing a 12-page letter last week in response to an article by The Council of Canadians. In it, he states that CPR has “multiple steps” built into its collection process to ensure the absence of viruses, bacteria and parasites.

He also noted that approximately 80% of plasma products used in Canada are manufactured from paid donor plasma in the United States.

“CPR is simply seeking to become a domestic supplier of Canadian hospitals in exactly the same way American companies supply our hospitals,” wrote Bahardoust.

Meanwhile, Canadian Blood Services has weighed in on the issue by saying that drugs produced from the plasma of paid donors “are just as safe as those made from volunteer donors” and that having access to the commercial paid plasma market is “essential in ensuring enough supply” for Canadians.