Baxter Found Liable in First Contaminated Herapin Trial

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo & Plotkin LLP

Recently, a Cook County jury awarded $625,000 to the estate of a 63 year old Chicago area man, Steven Johansen, who was administered Baxter blood thinner that contained a contaminated ingredient Baxter sourced from China. This was the first of hundreds of pending lawsuits on Baxter contaminated Chinese heparin to go to trial. The law offices of Rheingold, Giuffra, Ruffo & Plotkin LLP are currently in the process if litigating a wrongful death case in New York City involving a husband who died after being administered contaminated herapin.

Heparin is an injectable anticoagulant used widely in patients undergoing dialysis or heart surgery. In 2008, the FDA issued major recalls of the drug after it was found that raw heparin stock imported from China was contaminated. The FDA attributes 81 deaths in America due to the contamination.

The contaminant was determined to be a man-made “fake heparin” called over-sulfated chondroitin sulfate (OSCS), causing among other effects, potentially fatal allergic-like reactions. This crude heparin was referred to in the companies’ own internal records as “the cheap stuff.” Baxter and SPL knew that the plant had never been inspected by the U.S. FDA (which the FDA later attributed to clerical error) or Chinese regulatory officials. When the Chinese plant was finally inspected by the FDA after the heparin contamination crisis, multiple violations were found resulting in an import ban. Additional evidence also brought to light during the trial established that Baxter and SPL failed to establish and comport with quality/purity specifications, including an impurity profile, and failed to trace and control their supply chain. At trial, the Court granted partial directed verdict in favor of Mr. Johansen holding that the product sold by Baxter and SPL was defective as a matter of law.

The verdict was against both SPL and Baxter. The trial lasted 4 weeks. The Jury deliberated about 10 hours and reached a unanimous verdict of 12 jurors.

The contaminated heparin crisis received national attention and sparked congressional investigation as they exposed deficiencies in the regulatory oversight of drugs imported from China and other developing countries, and the failure of American drug companies, eager to increase profits by outsourcing, to monitor those foreign suppliers. If you or someone you know has suffered injury or death because of this gross negligence and disregard for safety, you should contact an attorney to discuss your options and possible compensation.

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