Yesterday the families of some of those who lost lives after
being treated with a contaminated blood thinner, Heparin, told their stories to
a House committee. The congressional panel listened to the tearful and
sometimes angry testimony as family members expressed their discontent for
manufacturers and regulators. The panel also heard testimony from manufacturers
and industry regulators, but was disappointed with their inability to stop the
contaminated Heparin from reaching the US market.
One man, Leroy Hubley of Toledo, Ohio, lost his wife Bonnie
and his son Randy, within weeks of each other. They both had an inherited
kidney disease and had undergone kidney dialysis at an Ohio clinic and received
heparin from a batch made by Baxter International.
Contaminated Heparin has been linked to 81 deaths according
to the FDA. Although it is not yet clear exactly how batches of Heparin were
contaminated but the current hypothesis is that the contamination was intentional.
The authentic ingredient in raw heparin is made from the
lining of pig intestines and costs about 900 dollars a pound, said a
congressional investigator, whereas the contaminant, oversulfated chondroitin
sulfate, is made from animal cartilage and costs 9 dollars a pound.
Experts suspect that the astronomical difference between the
prices of the two similar products enticed someone in the supply chain to
substitute one for the other in the interest of profit. This is not really that
surprising to me. We have seen pharmaceutical companies engage in deceptive
practices and questionable tactics all in the name of profit. I don’t know why
we would think that the ethics of the industry have changed.