Regular readers will be aware of regular posts on the effect of deliberate substitution of oversulfated chondroitin sulfate, or OSCS--that is derived from animal cartilage -- in supplies of heparin -- derived from pig intestines -- in China which first showed up in deaths and illness in users of Baxters heparin in the US during twice weekly kidney dialyisis sessions earlier this year. (see Wednesday, February 13, 2008 Baxter Healthcare Heparin crisis grows - active ingredient traced to Chinese production plant that was not inspected by the FDA )
This week's Time magazine has helpful update detailing some of the personal tragedies this has caused - Heparin's Deadly Side Effects By Bill Powell/Shanghai Thursday, Nov. 13, 2008
The article claims that (as many have suspected) that OSCS's key benfit is -- as a Baxter spokeswoman is quoted by Time, a "virtual mimic of heparin" in most tests and, according to a congressional investigator, costs only $20 per kg, vs. $2,000 for crude heparin. The suppliers, investigators believe, colluded to substitute OSCS in the crude heparin they passed along for the standard price and pocketed the $1,980 difference for each kilogram they sold.
Naturally in the land of the lawyers , plaintiff attorneys have filed 60 suits to date against Baxter and their Chinese based heparin suppliers, Scientific Protein Laboratories LLC (SPL), in federal courts. (Pic of Changzou SPL factory outside Shanghai)
SPL CEO Strunce can claim his company's heparin met Chinese standards, but that's probably a meaningless defense in a U.S. trial. For American drug companies using sources in China, quality control is not just China's problem--it's also their problem.
It is of interest that Waunakee, Wis., based SPL was started in 1976 by Oscar Meyer (now part of Kraft Foods) , top hot dog merchants throughout the USA. SPL have no connection now and are an independent company - " As a truly independent company, SPL is extremely nimble, entrepreneurial and customer-focused .... While we retain the levels of quality and compliance from our “Big-Pharma” roots.." (website)
Time points out that the gruesome connection is that half the world's pigs are to be found in China and Oscar Meyer handles a lot of them and so set up the company to manufacture and trade the many proteins used in the world wide pharmaceutical industry.
Thos interested in the further story of how Baxter's competitors in the USA , APP was taken over by dailysis speciaists Fresenius (FREG_p.DE: Quote) and the fascinating career of their fascinating Chinese born founder Patrick Soon Shong - Wednesday, July 09, 2008 who is till busy counting the US$3 Bn. he collected on selling out. Heparin -another chapter in the tale APP taken over by Fresenius - Patrick Soon Shong trousers US$3 Billion