Canadian Blood Services (TBEN) is partnering with a private healthcare company to boost Canada’s national blood plasma supply, the organization announced on Wednesday.
After reviewing an undisclosed number of proposals, TBEN has signed an agreement with Grifols, a company headquartered in Spain that specializes in the production of plasma drugs, the national blood collection organization said in a press release.
“This agreement has very importantly built in the important protections and safeguards that the national blood system needs to ensure that plasma collected in Canada remains in Canada to serve Canadian patients and that there are no negative effects on the blood system that we have today.” day,” said TBEN CEO Dr. Graham Sher at a press conference Wednesday.
Grifols will help TBEN meet national plasma delivery targets by both collecting paid plasma and converting Canadian plasma into immunoglobulins – a form of specialty drugs called plasma protein products – for Canadian patients.
The agreement comes as TBEN says it is struggling to meet national demand for plasma, the protein-rich fluid in the blood that keeps blood components circulating throughout the body.
It is used by people with immune deficiencies and rare blood disorders, kidney and liver diseases, several cancer patients and others, according to TBEN.
Health Canada says on its website that “not enough plasma is currently being collected in Canada to meet demand,” and most plasma products distributed by TBEN and Héma-Quebec are purchased from US manufacturers and made from US paid donor plasma. .
Some proponents say TBEN didn’t do enough to encourage voluntary donations in Canada before engaging commercial partners.
“It’s very confusing why Canadian Blood Services would secretly make this deal with a private pharmaceutical company, directly undermining their mandate, rather than expanding our own plasma collection plan,” said Kat Lanteigne, executive director of BloodWatch. org, a non-profit organization that advocates for a safe and voluntary public blood system in Canada.
TBEN collects only 15 percent of the required plasma
Plasma is mainly used in the country in two ways: it can be administered directly to people in hospitals and it can be processed into specialized drugs such as immunoglobulins.
TBEN currently depends on plasma donations to meet national demand. But it only collects about 15 percent of the plasma it needs, according to its website.
VIEW | Plasma donations in Canada fall well short of the need:
As a result, it buys plasma protein products, including immunoglobulins, in bulk from the global market to meet the remaining national demand.
TBEN recently opened 11 plasma donor centers in Ontario, Alberta and BC to try to boost donations in Canada.
With those new centers, TBEN is on track to reach about 25 percent of national supply, a TBEN spokesperson said last month.
But it still doesn’t hit its target, so it came up with recommendations to get more plasma. One of those recommendations was to increase supply through non-profit and commercial sectors.
The newly signed agreement with Grifols will enable the national blood collection organization to achieve “a minimum target of 50 percent adequacy in the shortest possible time,” according to a press release.
Grifols’ will collect paid plasma to collect the remaining 25 percent.
Under this agreement, Grifols will open an unknown number of plasma collection centers in Canada. It acquired the first plasma donation center earlier this year in Canada.
TBEN also plans to open three collection centers in BC and Ontario by 2023 and three more centers by 2024 to further increase the amount of plasma collected in the country.
Sher says there is “market potential for expansion” from both TBEN centers and Grifols. He went on to say that TBEN is confident it can grow donor numbers even if Grifols operates in Canada.
“They will operate in areas where we don’t operate now,” Sher said.
The 15-year agreement with Grifols states that none of the plasma collected in Canada, nor the immunoglobulins made by Canadian plasma, may be sold internationally.
TBEN also indicated in their press release that it will not buy raw plasma from Grifols, but specifically finished immunoglobulins.
The agreement brings up a range of views, with some patient organization leaders being quoted in the national blood organization’s press release in support of TBEN’s agreement with Grifols.
“We have long advocated an approach where we work with the commercial sector to ensure Canadian patients have access to life-saving, plasma-derived medicines when needed. Increasing Canada’s plasma adequacy to at least 50 percent is critical to ensure 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 disorders.
But Lanteigne says the deal is problematic because of the commercial model of plasma collection.
“Basically, what this does is it forces Canadian patients into commercially produced plasma, which we know is primarily collected from the most vulnerable communities. That’s in stark contrast to Canadian Blood Services’ mandate,” she said.
On Tuesday, the Canadian Health Coalition denounced TBEN and requested the resignation of TBEN’ CEO and board of directors to “recommit to the voluntary public mandate” of TBEN.
BloodWatch.org is also calling for the termination of current TBEN staff and the termination of the Grifols agreement.
“The health ministers need to step in and hold the Canadian Blood Services leadership accountable for appointing those board members,” Lanteigne said.
“Arm’s length doesn’t mean they aren’t accountable. Members of the public and the ministers themselves, I don’t think they recognize what Canadian Blood Services has done.”
on her websiteGrifols says it is working with TBEN to “steadily increase procurement of the Canadian plasma needed” so that volumes will reach 2.4 million grams of immunoglobulin annually by 2026.
Grifols will manufacture the protein products in North Carolina until the Montreal plant is fully operational in 2026. It will be Canada’s only large-scale commercial plasma product manufacturer.