There has been a lot of media attention given to paid versus voluntary plasma donations in Canada lately. Prometic Plasma Resources Collection Center in Winnipeg was originally started by John Bowman at the Canadian Red Cross Winnipeg Center on Osborne Street in the early 1970’s. At the time, he was interested in collecting plasma from his patients that he had treated for Haemolytic Disease of the Newborn or “Rh Disease”. His patients who later became donors were called the “Rh ladies” as they all had difficult pregnancies where their fetuses blood stimulated their own immune systems to make antibodies (Anti-D). Their plasma was collected to later be used to isolate these Anti-D antibodies to create a product later named WinRho Rh (D) Immune Globulin which was used to prevent the disease. A great Canadian success story.
At that time Dr Bowman felt that it was only fair to compensate these donors for their time and effort in making weekly donations. A decade later University of Manitoba students could donate their plasma on the Fort Garry campus in return for an honorarium so that their plasma could be used to develop innovative purification processes. This eventually led to the success of Cangene Corporation in the University of Manitoba Smart Park.
Blood scandals of the past led to the Krever Commission which came out against paying donors for plasma due to unsafe practices in the 1980’s. At the time, Justice Krever reviewed the case of speciality donors and supported the practice of compensation in this instance.
Flash forward to today. With much debate going on regarding paying plasma donors there have been several polls conducted asking Canadians what they think.
The Global and Mail reported “an internal Ipsos poll that found seven out of 10 Canadians between the ages of 18 to 34 think it would be acceptable to pay people for their plasma”.
Professors Macis and Lacetera, (John Hopkins University and University of Toronto) presented a study October 20, 2017 to the American Enterprise Institute a “non-partisan” think tank at their “Altruism, community, and markets” conference in Washington DC. Their results confirmed the previous Ipsos poll that Canadians strongly support paid plasma donation among Canadians (70%+). About 50% of those opposed would consider payments if domestic supply + imports were insufficient.
As currently only 17% of voluntary plasma is used to make Canadian plasma products, the majority of product used in Canada comes from paid US donors. It would be hypocritical of Canadians to demand Canadian donors be unpaid when Canada leans heavily on US paid donors.
Clearly plasma products save lives and are vital part of our healthcare system. Supply should not be compromised.