January 25, 2017 4:55 pm
Updated: January 26, 2017 9:05 pm

NB urged to ban blood plasma sales as controversial Moncton clinic nears completion

WATCH ABOVE: A controversial new blood collection will soon be opening its doors in Moncton. Despite opposition from various groups, the paid plasma clinic is awaiting final approval and expects to be operational in a few weeks.

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New Brunswick is being urged to ban blood plasma sales, even as a for-profit Ontario company says it is weeks away from opening a clinic in the Maritime province.

READ MORE: Construction of controversial paid-plasma clinic underway in Moncton

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Canadian Plasma Resources, which pays qualified donors between $25 and $100 per donation, said Wednesday its Moncton, N.B., clinic is almost ready, although it hasn’t yet received federal approval.

“We are still waiting for authorization from Health Canada, which we expect in about a month,” Canadian Plasma CEO Barzin Bahardoust said in an email.

The New Brunswick Health Coalition said Premier Brian Gallant should ban the sale of blood and plasma to “protect the integrity and security of our national blood system.”

Jean-Claude Basque with the coalition said the compensation is also an issue.

“When they’re talking about who would be the donor, really they’re talking about students and people living in poverty,” Basque said.

The coalition – in a letter signed by several unions, the province’s Acadian society and the NB Seniors Citizens Federation – said allowing Canadian Plasma to operate would make it a direct competitor to the non-profit Canadian Blood Services, and take supply out of the blood system.

READ MORE: Proposed paid-plasma clinic for N.B. moving forward despite strong opposition

New Brunswick Health Minister Victor Boudreau has said the province does not intend to prevent the clinic from opening.

Canadian Plasma already operates a donation clinic in Saskatoon, Sask., but Ontario and Quebec don’t allow them. It had two clinics in Toronto, but they were shuttered by provincial legislation in 2014.

Bahardoust has said he’d also like to open a donation clinic in British Columbia by the end of this year.

Health Canada confirmed Wednesday it is reviewing the company’s Moncton application.

Meanwhile, Canadian Blood Services (CBS) is pushing a plan to increase its own plasma collection, at as many as 40 new plasma collections sites by 2024.

“Plasma, just like whole blood, is a public resource that must be safeguarded for Canadians,” it said in a statement Tuesday. “Long-term security … can only be achieved through increased plasma collection by the publicly funded and publicly accountable not-for-profit blood system operated by Canadian Blood Services.”

READ MORE: Pay for plasma: The economics behind paid and unpaid systems

In a statement, Health Canada spokeswoman Renelle Briand said the department takes CBS’s concerns about paid plasma operations seriously.

Blood plasma is the yellowish fluid that remains after red and white blood cells and platelets are removed.

Fresh plasma is used for transfusions, while processed plasma is turned into a variety of pharmaceutical products. Plasma collected in Canada is sent to the United States or Eastern Europe for processing and then purchased for use for Canadian patients.

Bahardoust said the Moncton facility would eventually need about 30 full-time staff and require about 2,500 regular donors once in full operation.

“Because donating plasma takes twice as long as donating blood, and plasma donors can donate 12 times more frequently than blood donors, it is necessary to compensate donors for their time,” he said.

Bahardoust said his company was disappointed when CBS rejected its offer to provide source plasma “at a substantial discount” from its current American suppliers. He said CBS currently purchases plasma protein products through an open tender, and his company will compete for that business.

– With files from Paul Cormier, Global News

© 2017 The Canadian Press

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