U.K., Italian Citizens File Lawsuit Against Bayer Over Blood-Clotting Products Allegedly Made With HIV-Contaminated Blood
Several dozen British and Italian citizens on Friday filed a lawsuit in the District Court of Northern Illinois against the U.S. unit of Bayer and five other pharmaceutical companies, alleging that the companies knowingly sold blood-clotting products that could have been tainted with blood containing HIV and hepatitis C, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. The suit -- filed against Bayer, Baxter Healthcare, Armour Pharmaceutical, Alpha Therapeutic, the Aventis Behring unit of Aventis and Immuno-US -- names as plaintiffs several dozen people who claim they or a deceased relative contracted HIV or hepatitis C from Factor VIII or Factor IX concentrates, blood products that can stop potentially fatal bleeding in people with hemophilia. The plaintiffs are seeking $75,000 and a jury trial to address charges of fraudulent omission and concealment, wrongful death and negligence. Representatives from Baxter declined to comment on Friday, and representatives from the other companies could not be reached, according to the Sun-Times (Thomas, Chicago Sun-Times, 4/25).
The suit is similar to one filed in California Superior Court in Los Angeles in August 2003 by lawyers representing seven Taiwanese citizens, as well as a suit filed in June 2003 in a San Francisco federal court by 15 plaintiffs from Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom. Cutter Biological, a unit of Bayer, in the mid-1980s allegedly sold foreign hemophiliacs units of Factor VIII that had a high risk of transmitting HIV to the patients. The California suit claimed that Cutter knew the products carried a risk of HIV infection and that the company sold a safer, heat-treated version of the product in the United States and other Western countries. The suit also alleged that executives knew that the untreated Factor VIII potentially was tainted with HIV and that the product was sold on foreign markets for more than a year after the treated version was available to avoid wasting existing stockpiles. Cutter, Bayer, Baxter, Armour and Alpha in 1996 reached a $600 million settlement in a class-action suit involving 6,000 U.S. hemophiliacs who had been infected with untreated Factor VIII or a similar product. The companies admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement, saying that the plaintiffs' HIV infection occurred before the products were replaced with heat-treated versions on the U.S. market (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/11/03).