Ontario plans to join Quebec in banning payments to people for their blood and blood plasma after a paid-plasma clinic in Toronto opened to donors.
The governing Liberals re-introduced legislation on Wednesday that also incorporates recommended changes to pharmacy oversight in response to cases in which more than 1,200 cancer patients in Ontario and New Brunswick received diluted chemotherapy drugs.
The proposed measures would give the Ontario College of Pharmacists the power to inspect and license hospital pharmacies and potentially other locations.
They say British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick have similar rules.
The Liberals have been trying to prevent people from being compensated in any way for their blood and plasma, such as reimbursing them for expenses, for more than a year.
The new bill would ensure the poor are not exploited or coerced, Health Minister Eric Hoskins said.
The only exceptions would be blood and plasma given for research and emergencies, he said.
“This decision to prohibit payment for blood and plasma donations will in no way reduce the supply or the availability of blood and blood products for Ontarians,” Mr. Hoskins said.
“But it will protect the integrity of our current blood donation system – a system that works.”
Plasma is a component of blood that can be used for transfusions and to make drugs that can treat conditions like burns, severe infections and hemophilia.
The legislation would give the province the power to decide which facilities require a licence and which labs or specimen collection centres can have one.
Health Canada currently receives applications for licences, but the provinces and territories can decide whether to allow payment for plasma donors.
Canadian Plasma Resources invested about $8.5-million in three clinics: two in Toronto and one in Hamilton, said chief executive Barzin Bahardoust.
One clinic in downtown Toronto has been open to donors since March to collect plasma for research, which Health Canada permits. Prospective donors go through tests and interviews, and if they are approved, can receive a $25 charity donation to the Hospital for Sick Children or $25 Visa gift cards that can’t be converted to cash, Bahardoust said.
The company applied for an establishment licence from the federal government in 2012 that would allow them to collect plasma to make pharmaceutical products, but Health Canada said it’s still under review.
Dr. Bahardoust said he hopes Ontario’s legislation will make a distinction between plasma used to manufacture drugs – which is in short supply in Canada – and fresh blood and plasma for transfusions, which should continue to be collected from voluntary donors.
Plasma Protein Therapeutics Association, which represents companies that make plasma products, said it can take hundreds of donations to make a single treatment, which would not available without committed donors.
Mr. Hoskins insists there would be no shortage of products since Ontario has what it needs. But he acknowledged that Canada receives about 70 per cent of its plasma supplies from outside the country, where people are paid for it. The rest comes from Canadian Blood Services.
Health Canada said on its website that paid plasma donors are “critical” to ensuring a sufficient supply of blood products and the supply from the United States is “extremely safe.”
“The safety requirements of the plasma protein products is extraordinary,” said Dr. Bahardoust. “There has not been a single case of transmission of disease in the last 25 years through plasma protein products.”
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