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Hollywood takes on Big Pharma

A lawsuit filed against Baxter International by Hollywood actor Dennis Quaid, whose twin babies received an overdose of the company's blood-thinning drug heparin, is receiving increasing media attention

A lawsuit filed against US-based Baxter International by Hollywood actor Dennis Quaid, whose twin babies received an overdose of the company's blood-thinning drug heparin, is receiving increasing media attention thanks to the Internet.

The real-life medical drama has already reached the cover of People, the story of which focused on the hospital responsible for the mistake. However the lawsuit is now focusing media attention on Baxter, which is now the subject of stories on websites, such as Yahoo and Google.

The suit alleges that Baxter was negligent because the company's packaging design for heparin contributed to the hospital error in the dosage given to the twins.

The suit details that Baxter produces vials of two different strengths, each with a blue background. One dosage has a concentration of 10 units of heparin per ml, and the other has a concentration of 10,000 units per ml.

The Quaids says that staff at Cedars-Sinai made a "medical error" and administered the product, which is 1,000 times as strong.

The suit contends that Baxter was negligent because it knew that three infants died in 2006 as a result of similar heparin overdose related to packaging confusion, but had failed to recall the product. It also failed to repackage the drug or to issue an urgent warning to hospitals that had purchased the product.

Baxter has acknowledged that labelling is a potential issue. At a Las Vegas industry meeting on 4 December, the company highlighted a change in packaging that "provides additional safeguards" to help clinicians correctly identify critical medications, according to a press statement on the firm's website.

A Chicago law firm has filed suit on behalf of Quaid, who is seeking an amount in excess of USD 50,000.

5th December 2007

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