Plasma Donations in Canada
Plasma is a vital starting material for the manufacture of many life-saving drugs. It is the clear, straw-colored liquid portion of blood that remains after red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and other cellular components are removed. It is the single largest component of human blood containing about 90% water, as well as salts, enzymes, antibodies and other proteins.
There are two processes for obtaining plasma for further manufacturing:
- Recovered plasma is collected through a whole blood donation and is obtained by separating the blood after donation into plasma and cellular components. This may also be used for further fractionation. In Canada blood is managed by blood operators; HemaQuebec who is responsible for Quebec and Canadian Blood Services, who manage blood collections in the rest of Canada. Canadian blood donors are non-remunerated for their donations. Recovered plasma currently accounts for about 17% of the plasma required by Canada.
- Source plasma that is collected from healthy, donors through a process called plasmapheresis and is only used for manufacturing (fractionating) into final life saving therapies. These donors may be compensated for their time associated with donating which can range between one to three hours.
Currently there are two dedicated Source Plasma collection companies, Canadian Plasma Resources and Prometic Plasma Resources operating in Canada. Both HemaQuebec and Canadian Blood Services have plans underway to increase plasmapheresis donations. Currently 83% of Canada’s plasma requirements are being met from US-based donors.
Only a small number of people who are eligible to donate blood or source plasma are active donors. Plasma donation requires a commitment both in the amount of time for each donation and frequency of donation. It takes between one and three hours to donate Source plasma, and plasma can be donated twice within a seven-day period. Whole blood donation takes less time—under 30 minutes—and donors donate less frequently—no more than once in eight weeks. The programs may fit into a donor’s life differently at various times in the donor’s life, and are equally important in helping to fulfill a vital medical need.
It is essential that healthy people volunteer to donate plasma. Both Source plasma donations and blood donations are critically important activities that contribute to saving lives. Source and recovered plasma are used to produce therapies that treat people with rare, chronic diseases and disorders such as primary immunodeficiency, hemophilia and a genetic lung disease, as well as in the treatment of trauma, burns and shock. For Example, Immune Globulin Intravenous (IGIV) is used to treat a wide array of diseases and can only be made from many plasma donors. Its use in Canada is growing steadily at over 5% a year so demand for plasma is growing. Consequently, it has been reported that the blood operators must import 83% of its plasma or more specifically plasma products from the United States. Canada is ranked as the second country in the world after the United States for average consumption of IGIV with annual consumption forecasted to grow steadily in he future. Clearly more plasma donors are needed in the future to meet these growing demands.