Deerfield-based Baxter International Inc., the world's biggest maker of blood
treatment products, and Bayer Corp. were hit with a lawsuit by hemophiliacs who
say they contracted HIV and or hepatitis C from contaminated products sold by
The lawsuit claims the companies continued selling the products in Asia and
Latin America in 1984 and 1985, even after they ceased selling them in the
United States because of the risk of HIV and hepatitis being transmitted.
The lawsuit, which was filed in California and seeks class-action status,
also names Armour Pharmaceutical and Alpha Therapeutic. It alleges the companies
intentionally sold products that they knew or should have known to be infected
with the agents that cause AIDS and hepatitis C.
Baxter makes Factor VIII products used to treat patients with hemophilia, a
disease that prevents blood from clotting properly.
Besides Factor VIII, the products referenced in the suit made by the
companies include Factor IX and factor concentrate. The products help stop or
prevent life-threatening bleeding.
The lawsuit was brought on behalf of hemophiliacs living outside the United
States or their survivors.
It alleges the defendants recruited and paid donors and or bought
plasma--which is used in the production of the products--that it knowingly
obtained from the highest-risk populations. The companies failed to exclude
donors with a history of viral hepatitis, and to conduct tests that would have
substantially reduced the likelihood of plasma containing HIV, the virus that
causes AIDS, and Hepatitis C, the suit contends.
Baxter and the other companies agreed in 1997 to pay more than $600 million
to settle lawsuits brought on behalf of hemophiliacs who claimed the companies
knowingly sold HIV contaminated products.
Baxter spokeswoman Deborah Spak called the latest suit "a little strange,
given the fact that these incidents occurred more than 20 years ago and that
over many many years in order to minimize the burden the hemophiliac community
has faced, we have participated in settlements and humanitarian [activities]
throughout the world."
She declined comment on potential financial implications to the company.
Bayer said it will defend itself against the suit and that it acted ''in
accordance with existing regulations in each country and in accordance with the
scientific knowledge at the time.''
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