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Early result in contaminated blood thinner litigation

Significant litigation has arisen in connection with Baxter International Inc. and its supplier, Scientific Protein Laboratories. The defective product claims stem from contaminated heparin, a blood-thinner, distributed to patients all over the country. The drug allegedly became contaminated during a portion of the supply chain that occurred in China. Officials at Baxter International claim that the contaminant, a cheap substitute made from pig intestines, was purposefully put into the heparin. That claim has been denied by the Chinese government.

While the individual cases are just now being settled or going to court, the Food and Drug Administration has already taken steps to increase their oversight of drugs that are manufactured overseas, or that have supply chains overseas. Products produced in China are receiving particular attention in the wake of numerous dangerous product claims involving a wide range of materials and items produced in that country.

In a recent case in Cook County, a jury awarded more than $600,000 to the estate of a man of died after receiving several doses of the contaminated heparin. His case was one of many that led Baxter to recall the product in 2008. At that time, the FDA was in the process of investigating substantial reports involving injury and death to patients who received the blood thinner.

The specific contaminant used here is a known substitute for heparin that was known to cause allergic reactions, in some cases fatal reactions, as well as a host of other side effects. It is a relatively inexpensive substance called oversulfated chondroitin sulfate. Contamination stemming from this substitute causes specific symptoms that can lead to catastrophic results for the recipient. Other cases of injury or death from contaminated heparin products have involved deadly bacteria and infected syringes.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "$625,000 judgment against Baxter in 2007 blood-thinner death case," 9 June, 2011

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