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Report Confirms Source of Contaminated Heparin
Date:12/3/2008

A man-made chemical was added to the blood thinner imported from China

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 3 (HealthDay News) -- A final report on the deadly contamination of the blood thinner heparin confirms that the problem was caused by a man-made chemical that was added to batches of the drug imported from China, U.S. investigators report.

The crisis, which began last November, resulted in 152 adverse reactions and as many as 81 deaths in the United States. The Chinese heparin, contaminated with the chemical oversulfated chondroitin sulfate, was found in at least 10 countries, according to federal officials.

"The last case was reported on January 31," said Dr. Priti R. Patel, a medical epidemiologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and a member of the investigation team that wrote the report.

Published in the Dec. 4 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, the report "describes the adverse reactions caused by the contaminant" and links it to a specific substance, Patel said. The reactions included a drastic drop in blood pressure, nausea and shortness of breath, starting within 30 minutes after the administration of the heparin.

"There is a definite link between this contaminant and the patients who had these reactions," she said.

The first reports of such reactions among hospital patients given heparin came in November 2007. Eventually, cases were reported in 13 states. Investigators found a common thread in those cases: heparin marketed by Baxter Healthcare, of Deerfield, Ill., which got its supplies from China.

Raw heparin is derived from pig intestines. It is given intravenously to prevent blood clots during certain kinds of surgery, and also is used by people with kidney disease requiring dialysis. In China, heparin often is made by small, unregulated companies.

Chondroitin sulfate is a natural substance extracted from animal cartilage that can be
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