"Heparin is a blood thinner, used in a variety of procedures, including dialysis and cardiac procedures," Drake said. "For dialysis, it is used to make the blood flow more freely. It is also administered in cardiac procedures and is used to flush catheters."
In early 2008, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a recall of certain Baxter heparin products after the agency received reports of adverse reactions linked to the products. Within a month, hundreds of reports detailing severe reactions to heparin surfaced worldwide. The recall was later expanded to include more products and other companies.
"The FDA discovered that the contaminant was oversulfated chondroitin sulphate (OSCS)," Drake said. "The reactions to OSCS can be extreme. With large doses of heparin, it can result in death."
Drake explained that injuries linked to contaminated heparin can run from one extreme to the other: from nausea, vomiting and flu-like symptoms to anaphylactic shock, coma and even death. Many patients who survived the contamination suffered extreme flu-like illness resulting in hospitalization and in substantial hospital bills.
"We have a client who was in a coma for three months and narrowly survived," Drake said.
The key now is to determine where the contaminant was introduced. OSCS is a synthetic product that mimics the characteristics of heparin, which is why the contaminant was so difficult to detect. Officials suspect OSCS was introduced intentionally to dilute heparin in an attempt to maximize profits.
Heparin is made from swine—pig intestines. In 2006 to 2007, China's swine population was devastated by a rare disease.
"By some accounts the cost of swine went up 85 percent," Drake said. "Someone got the idea to purposely introduce OSCS as a cheaper alternative."
"We are still investigating Baxter's role in this," continued Drake. "We believe they didn't adequately test the heparin for this type of contaminant. It got on the marketplace and resulted in devastating injury and death."
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"It is not too late to join litigation," Drake says. "Time is running out but there is still time. We are accepting clients from across the country.
"In addition to being entitled to compensation, it is important to send a message to the pharmaceutical industry that they need to keep a closer eye on manufacturing processes, especially when importing active pharmaceutical ingredients from oversees and especially when importing from China."