Open Letter to Provincial and Territorial Ministers of Health from Barzin Bahardoust, CEO Canadian Plasma Resources

SASKATOON, March 8, 2017 /CNW/ -

Dear Ministers:

Re: Paid Plasma in Canada and Canadian Blood Services' Source Plasma Collection Plan

According to media reports, Canadian Blood Services (CBS) has recently submitted a funding request to your governments for an additional 100 million dollars to fund the capital costs of establishing 40 new plasma collection centres across Canada.

I am writing to you today for three reasons.  First, to highlight several facts that suggest the true cost of CBS' proposed program vastly exceeds 100 million dollars, second; to correct the misleading information being provided to you and the public concerning plasma collection and my company, and third, to share with you the details of our offer to provide CBS with Health Canada licensed Canadian plasma – a proposal they rejected despite the significant cost advantages associated with it.

As you know, CBS purchases pharmaceutical products made from human plasma known as plasma protein products (PPPs) for Canadian patients outside Quebec. PPPs are life-saving drugs on which thousands of our most vulnerable patients rely. Canada is completely dependent on foreign pharmaceutical companies to provide these drugs and only contributes a small fraction of the raw material (human plasma) to manufacture them. Last year CBS spent 645 million dollars purchasing PPPs from these foreign firms. This represented a program spending increase of 27% over the previous year.

Today, only 17 percent of the plasma used in Ig (main driver of the PPP market) comes from volunteer donors in Canada. Most other PPPS have no Canadian plasma content.  The rest comes from paid American donors.  This is due to cost.  Because of the significant time commitment required to be a plasma donor (vs a blood donor), it is far more expensive to find enough volunteer donors than it is to recruit paid donors. The private sector can collect and process a unit of plasma from a paid donor, under the same Health Canada regulatory and licensing requirements, at a fraction of what it costs CBS to collect the same unit of plasma from a volunteer donor.  CBS acknowledged this fact when it closed its only dedicated plasma collection facility in Thunder Bay a few years ago.  And so because Canada has not had its own private sector plasma industry to date, we have relied on the American private sector and the paid American donor to meet our needs for the last several decades.

CBS' new proposal is to restart the program it recently shut down, and expand it to collect an additional 866,000 units of plasma annually to increase Canada's plasma sufficiency for Immune globulin (Ig) to 50% at the end of seven years.  This new plasma would be collected from volunteer donors and shipped to the foreign pharmaceutical companies that currently supply CBS with PPPs.

According to its annual report, last year CBS spent 448 million dollars to collect and manage 758,000 units of blood and plasma.  Their new proposal to collect an additional 866,000 units of only plasma, will more than double the total volume of products CBS collects in a year.  Anyone familiar with plasma collection procedures knows full well that growing a donor base beyond its current size disproportionately increases costs, and given that plasmapheresis is more complex and time consuming than whole blood collection, it is reasonable to assume that the total costs associated with this new program will significantly exceed the 100 million dollar price tag quoted by CBS.

My company, Canadian Plasma Resources, was formed because we see an opportunity to create a domestic PPP industry in Canada.  Our goal is to create a Canadian business that can compete with the foreign companies who supply our health care system today. Our initial business plan is to establish ten collection centres across the country to collect 400,000 litres of plasma and build a fractionation facility to manufacture PPPs. This represents a 400 million dollar investment and 2000 new jobs.

Despite the fact that demand for plasma protein products has been rising rapidly for many years, and that Canada is and has been completely dependent on the United States for decades for our supply, it is only the establishment of Canadian Plasma Resources, and our intent to build an industry here that has prompted CBS to expand its own plasma collection efforts.  As far as we can tell, this is due to political pressure exerted by public sector unions who oppose any role for the Canadian private sector regardless of the benefits, and safe blood advocates who reject the undisputed scientific consensus that PPPs manufactured from paid plasma donations are as safe as those manufactured from voluntary donations. 

In succumbing to this pressure, CBS is now suggesting that a paid plasma industry is not desirable for Canada, even though their own plan explicitly states that they will continue to rely on the paid American plasma donor for at least half of Canada's supply indefinitely.  And let's not forget that aside from the donor issue, foreign companies will continue to supply 100 percent of Canada's finished products absent a Canadian manufacturer.  So the question is not whether Canada will rely on paid donors or the private sector, the question is whether those paid donors and companies will forever only be American. That CBS and its unions prefer American suppliers over Canadian options is beyond comprehension.

To support their request for additional funds from you, CBS has made numerous disparaging statements about our company that are inconsistent, unsupported by evidence, and hypocritical.  They claim that our Saskatoon facility is depleting the voluntary blood donor pool in that city without offering any evidence to that effect, or acknowledging that they downsized and moved their own blood collection facility and increased the time required between blood donations for female donors.  Despite this, in the past, they have noted that the paid plasma company located in Winnipeg has had no impact on voluntary donations in that city.

It has also been claimed that it is not our intent to supply the Canadian market – and that we are simply here to collect plasma and export it for sale on the open market to the highest bidder.  This is a ridiculous argument as CBS purchases all of its PPPs on the open market, through competitive tenders, and they are one of – if not the highest bidder – with Canada paying among the highest prices in the world.  Why would we invest millions to operate in one of the highest cost jurisdictions in the world if our primary customers are located in lower cost places?

We recently offered to sell source plasma licensed by Health Canada to CBS (that's the raw material, not the finished products which they purchase on the open market) from our facility in Saskatoon.  Unfortunately they declined. Even though our offer was 20% below the average US price. CBS purchased over 47 thousand litres of raw plasma from US vendors last year; an increase of 50% over the previous year.  I have attached our offer for your information. You will note the substantial difference in cost vs. what CBS pays its American suppliers.  A concern was expressed that CBS might have difficulty using our plasma as it is not registered by the FDA in the United States, where CBS ships raw plasma for processing.  This concern was not given as the reason for rejecting our plasma, but addressing it is a simple process and we would be happy to do so should CBS reconsider its decision.

We welcome CBS' new found interest in collecting plasma. Canada is the largest per capita user of PPPs and demand is growing quickly all over the world.  So, to ensure security of supply for Canadian patients, we absolutely support any increase in the supply of Canadian plasma, regardless of whether it comes from volunteer or paid donors.  But let's be clear - no country has been able to meet its demand for plasma without relying on paid donors. Canada is and will be no different. 

We are proud to be licensed by Health Canada, and privileged to have the support of several provinces and most national patient advocacy organizations for our model.  We believe this is a great opportunity for Canada and look forward to responding to any questions or concerns you may have.

Sincerely,

Barzin Bahardoust, CEO

Canadian Plasma Resources

 

SOURCE Canadian Plasma Resources

For further information: please contact: Jim Pimblett 647-966-7388

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