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Researchers Identify Contaminant in Tainted Heparin
Date:4/23/2008

More testing needed to prove that oversulfated chondroitin sulphate caused deaths, reactions

WEDNESDAY, April 23 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. researchers say they've confirmed that lots of the blood thinner heparin pulled from the market are contaminated with a man-made chemical called oversulfated chondroitin sulfate.

The findings were published online Wednesday in Nature Biotechnology.

And, according to a paper published online simultaneously in the New England Journal of Medicine, the same researchers state that regulators now have at their disposal a test to detect contaminated heparin.

Regulators have said they have been hampered in their efforts to safeguard the public from contaminated heparin because of an uncertainty over exactly what the contaminant is and the lack of a test to spot such a contaminant.

"Sophisticated analytical techniques enabled complete characterization of the contaminant present in heparin. Further, this study also provides the scientific groundwork for critical improvements in screening practices that can now be applied to monitor heparin, thus ensuring patient safety," Ram Sasisekharan, senior author of the papers and the Underwood Prescott Professor of Biological Engineering and Health Sciences and Technology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said in a prepared statement.

On Monday, U.S. health officials said they believed that oversulfated chondroitin sulfate (OSCS) might be responsible for the dozens of deaths and hundreds of adverse reactions in the United States that have been linked with contaminated heparin between roughly last November and February.

That belief was bolstered by the fact that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it had identified a likely "biological mechanism" by which the oversulfated chondroitin sulfate leads to the adverse reactions seen so far, Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA's Center for Drug
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