Hemophiliacs File Class Action Lawsuit Against Bayer Over Blood-Clotting Products Made With HIV-Contaminated Blood
Thousands of hemophiliacs on Monday filed a class-action suit in federal court against drug maker Bayer and other drug companies alleging that in the mid-1980s the companies knowingly sold blood-clotting products that were made with HIV- and hepatitis C-contaminated blood, the AP/Orlando Sentinel reports. The suit, which comes less than two weeks after a New York Times investigation publicized the issue, also alleges that the companies continued to sell the product overseas after introducing a safer version in the United States. The hemophiliacs filed the suit on behalf of patients in other countries who received the medicine, called Factor VIII concentrate, which can stop potentially fatal bleeding in people with hemophilia (Curtis, AP/Orlando Sentinel, 6/2). The Times reported that Cutter Biological, a division of Bayer, in the mid-1980s reportedly sold millions of dollars worth of Factor VIII that had a high risk for transmitting HIV to treat hemophiliacs in Asia and Latin America, while it sold a safer, heat-treated version of the product in the United States and other Western countries. In the early years of the AIDS epidemic, the company used pooled plasma donations from about 10,000 people to make the medicine. However, because there was not yet a test for HIV, thousands of hemophiliacs became infected through the use of Factor VIII (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/23). The lawsuit claims that there were precautions the drug makers could have taken to help avoid contamination, including screening donors or using volunteers, the AP/Sentinel reports. Attorney Robert Nelson said, "Thousands of hemophiliacs have unnecessarily died from AIDS and many thousands more are infected with HIV or hepatitis C," adding, "This is a worldwide tragedy." Representatives from neither Bayer nor Baxter Healthcare, which is also named in the lawsuit, returned phone calls seeking comment after business hours yesterday, the AP/Sentinel reports (AP/Orlando Sentinel, 6/2).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.