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WHAT WE
PRODUCE
FROM BLOOD

We collect blood from voluntary, unpaid donors. Following a typical blood donation, the components of whole blood — red blood cells, platelets and plasma — are separated as part of the manufacturing process. Platelets and plasma can also be separated from a donor’s blood through a process called apheresis. After testing and processing, we make all three blood components available for transfusion.

While some of the plasma we collect is used by hospitals to treat trauma and severe bleeding, most is used to make plasma protein products: albumin, which is used to treat burns and trauma; immunoglobulins, prescribed for infections and immune disorders; and clotting factors for some bleeding disorders. (The coagulation factor used by hemophiliacs does not come from blood; it is synthesized from recombinant DNA.) All of these pharmaceutical products (also called “biological drugs”) are manufactured through a process called fractionation. Because fractionation services aren’t available in Canada, we ship plasma to contract suppliers in the U.S. and Europe, who manufacture products that are then shipped back for patient use here. We also purchase some plasma-derived products and synthetic alternatives abroad from manufacturers that meet the stringent safety and quality standards of regulators such as Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

FOCAL POINT:  A MODEL FOR NATIONAL PHARMACARE

PLASMA PROTEIN PRODUCTS     

Canadian Blood Services is responsible for manufacturing, acquiring and distributing about $500 million of plasma protein products annually. These biological drugs are vital in treating patients with hemophilia and various immune disorders, as well as burn and trauma victims, among many other potential recipients. Our national, cost-shared network helps to get the right products to the right patients at the right time.

We continue to benefit from bulk-purchase contracts negotiated in recent years with...


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FOCAL POINT:  A MODEL FOR NATIONAL PHARMACARE

Since our founding in 1998, Canadian Blood Services has not only managed Canada’s blood system but also acted as a national resource for biological drugs. We provide patients across the country with universal and equitable access to a range of plasma-derived products. Focusing the collective buying power of the provincial and territorial governments, and following established best practices in competitive, transparent public tendering, we’ve negotiated about $600 million in savings and cost avoidance over a five-year period (through fiscal 2017–2018) to the benefit of all Canadians.

Whenever possible, we purchase products in diverse lots from multiple suppliers — all of them independently qualified and regularly audited — and negotiate a guaranteed “safety stock” to mitigate the risk of shortages. We also seek input as appropriate from patients, physicians and recognized experts to ensure our product choices align with current and emerging needs.

We’ve shown through 17 years of experience that a nationally coordinated approach to bulk-purchasing and distributing drugs significantly benefits patients, care providers and health-system funders. At a time when governments are once again considering the advantages of a national pharmacare program with the potential to save billions of dollars, our model of effective collaboration and cost-sharing points the way to a solution. We’ll continue to draw upon the lessons we’ve learned as we contribute to the national conversation.

* For a more detailed examination of this issue, see Dr. Graham D. Sher’s op-ed article in the April 15, 2015 issue of The National Post.

Reg Parker

Reg understands more than most the impact blood and organ donors have in saving lives. A regular recipient of gamma globulins, a plasma protein product, to treat common variable immune deficiency, Reg also underwent a double lung and liver transplant in 2014, receiving 32+ units of blood during surgery.