Baxter Healthcare Loses First Contaminated Heparin Case Trial

Illinois drug recall attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm are pleased to announce a positive legal development for all contaminated Heparin victims. On June 9, 2011, a Cook County Circuit Court jury awarded $625,000 to the estate of Steven Johansen, a Chicago area man who died after receiving tainted doses of Heparin blood thinner. This case is significant because it is the first in a series of pending Cook County lawsuits against Baxter International to go to trial. Hundreds of state and federal pharmaceutical negligence lawsuits are also pending around the country, alleging that Baxter sold contaminated Heparin that caused death and serious personal injuries. Sadly, it appears from evidence brought to light during trial that the contaminated Heparin sale was intentional and selfishly motivated by financial gain.

According to the complaint, 63-year old Steven Johansen received low doses of contaminated Heparin during a 2007 dialysis treatment. Although he did not adversely react to the first dose, he died five days after receiving a second, much higher dose of contaminated Heparin. The Court ruled that Baxter’s Heparin was defective as a matter of law, and the jury awarded the $625,000 to compensate for the pain and suffering that Mr. Johansen endured in the five days that followed the fatal Heparin dose. Our pharmaceutical negligence attorneys believe that significant damages are appropriate in this case, where a desperate attempt to cut costs led an innocent Heparin patient to suffer deadly results.

The contaminated Heparin crisis that sparked a congressional investigation started back in March of 2008, when the FDA discovered that the Heparin blood thinner sold and manufactured by Baxter in the United States was contaminated with over-sulfated chondroiton sulfate. This man-made, synthetic chemical causes vomiting, drops in blood pressure, and potentially fatal side allergic reactions. The tainted Heparin was manufactured in at least a dozen Chinese factories which Baxter knew had never been inspected by the FDA or its Chinese counterpart.

Shortly after the FDA recalled the contaminated Heparin and announced an import ban, Baxter revealed that its Chinese supplier, Scientific Protein Laboratories, intentionally introduced the dangerous chemical to save money. Heparin is made from the intestines of pigs, and was difficult to obtain in 2008 because of a global pig epidemic. Instead of paying up to 100 times more for Heparin, the Chinese manufacturing plants substituted the deadly contaminant that closely mimics Heparin. Although Baxter tried to shift blame for its negligence, court documents show that company officials knew all along patient safety was being compromised for financial profits. According to the Chicago Tribune, the Baxter’s own internal records refer to the crude Heparin as “the cheap stuff.” Additional evidence at trial established that Baxter and its Chinese supplier failed to trace and control their supply chain and failed to establish quality control specifications.

As a result of Baxter’s clear negligence, defective Heparin caused more than 750 severe allergic reactions and more than 80 deaths. Many contaminated Heparin victims are taking legal action against Baxter and the latest decision suggests that they will likely receive substantial compensation for the pain and suffering they endured. Although only one Heparin case has resulted in a trial thus far, hundreds are still pending, and another Cook County Heparin case recently settled for an undisclosed amount. When pharmaceutical companies manufacture and sell defective products, they are liable for the injuries and deaths those products cause.

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