Canadian Blood Services signs agreement with private company to increase national plasma supply

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Canadian Blood Services CEO Dr. Graham Sher believes the organization can increase voluntary plasma donations without paying donors. (CBC – image credit)

Canadian Blood Services (CBS) is partnering with a private healthcare company to increase Canada’s national blood plasma supply, the organization announced Wednesday.

After reviewing an undisclosed number of proposals, CBS has signed an agreement with Grifols, a Spain-based company specializing in the production of plasma-based drugs, the national blood donor organization said in a press release. .

“It is very important that this agreement incorporates the important protections and safeguards that the national blood system needs to ensure that plasma collected in Canada stays in Canada to serve Canadian patients and that there is no negative impact on the blood system we operate today,” CBS CEO Dr. Graham Sher said at a press conference Wednesday.

Grifols will help CBS achieve its national plasma supply goals by collecting paid plasma and converting Canadian plasma into immunoglobulins – a form of specialty medication called plasma protein products – for Canadian patients.

Hiep Vu via Canadian Blood Services

Hiep Vu via Canadian Blood Services

The deal comes as CBS says it is struggling to meet national demand for plasma, the protein-rich liquid in the blood that helps blood components flow throughout the body.

It is used by people with immune deficiencies and rare blood disorders, kidney and liver diseases, various cancer patients and others, according to CBS.

Health Canada states on its website that there is currently “not enough plasma collected in Canada to meet demand”, and most plasma products distributed by CBS and Héma-Québec are purchased from American manufacturers and made from plasma from paid U.S. donors.

Some advocates say CAS hasn’t done enough to spur voluntary donations in Canada before tapping into business partners.

“It is very confusing that Canadian Blood Services is secretly entering into this deal with a private pharmaceutical company that directly undermines its mandate, instead of expanding our own plasma collection plan,” said Kat Lanteigne, BloodWatch’s CEO. org, a not-for-profit organization that advocates for a safe and voluntary public blood system in Canada.

CBS only collects 15% of the plasma needed

Plasma is mainly used in two ways in the country: it can be transfused to people directly in hospitals and it can be made into specialized drugs like immunoglobulins.

CBS currently relies on plasma donations to meet national demand. But it only collects about 15% of the plasma needed, according to its website.

WATCH | Plasma donations in Canada are well below the needs:

As a result, it buys plasma protein products, including immunoglobulins, in bulk from the global market to meet the remaining domestic demand.

CBS recently opened 11 plasma donor centers in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia to try to increase the amount raised per donation in Canada.

With these new centers, CBS is on track to reach about 25% of the national offering, a CBS spokesperson said last month.

But he still doesn’t reach his goal, so he offered recommendations on how to get more plasma. Among those recommendations was increasing supply through the not-for-profit and commercial sectors.

Thanks to its recently signed agreement with Grifols, the national blood collection organization will be able to achieve “a minimum objective of 50% sufficiency in the shortest possible time”, according to a press release.

Grifols will collect paid plasma to reach the remaining 25%.

This agreement means that Grifols will open an undetermined number of plasma collection centers in Canada. It acquired its first plasma donation center in Canada earlier this year.

Hiep Seen

Hiep Seen

CBS also plans to open three collection centers in British Columbia and Ontario in 2023 and three more centers in 2024 to further increase the amount of plasma collected in the country.

Sher says there is a “potential market for expansion” from CBS Centers and Grifols. He went on to say that CBS is confident that it can increase donor numbers even with Grifols operating in Canada.

“They will operate in areas where we are not currently operating,” Sher said.

The 15-year agreement with Grifols specifies that no plasma collected in Canada, nor immunoglobulins made from Canadian plasma, can be sold internationally.

CBS also clarified in its press release that it would not purchase raw plasma from Grifols, but specifically finished immunoglobulins.

The deal brings a range of opinions, with some patient organization leaders cited in the National Blood Organization’s press release in support of CBS’s deal with Grifols.

“We have long advocated for an approach that includes working with the commercial sector to ensure that Canadian patients have access to lifesaving plasma-derived medicines when needed. Increasing Canada’s plasma sufficiency to at least 50% is critical to ensuring that access,” said Jennifer van Gennip, executive director of the Network of Rare Blood Disorder Organizations, a coalition of national patient groups representing people with rare blood disorder. rare blood disorders.

But Lanteigne says the deal is problematic because of the plasma collection business model.

“What this actually does is it forces Canadian patients to obtain plasma from commercial sources, which we know is collected primarily from the most vulnerable communities. This is in stark contrast to the mandate of Canadian Blood Services,” she said.

On Tuesday, the Canadian Health Coalition denounced CBS’ decision and called for the firing of CBS’ CEO and board of directors to “recommit to the voluntary public mandate” of CBS.

BloodWatch.org is also calling for the firing of current CBS staff and the cancellation of the Grifols deal.

“Health ministers need to step in and hold Canadian Blood Services leaders accountable because they appoint these board members,” Lanteigne said.

“Independent does not mean not responsible. Members of the public and ministers themselves, I don’t think they still recognize what Canadian Blood Services has done.

On its website, Grifols says it is working with CBS to “steadily increase the supply of needed Canadian plasma” so that volumes reach 2.4 million grams of immunoglobulin per year by 2026.

Grifols will manufacture the protein products in North Carolina until its Montreal plant is fully operational in 2026. It will be the only large-scale commercial manufacturer of plasma products in Canada.

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