Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The case of the curious silence: Counterfeit Heparin killed 62+

Counterfeit Heparin (alas, again fraud in China) killed 62 - Americans. I've not seen data on foreign deaths. The latest via ABC:

ABC News: FDA Puts Heparin Death Count at 62

... After reviewing adverse events back to January 2007, FDA said Tuesday it uncovered 103 reports of patients who died while taking heparin.

Of those deaths, 62 involved allergic reactions or hypotension, a type of dangerously low blood pressure. Those are the same side effects that caused Baxter's to pull all U.S. heparin injections from the market by February...

America's adverse event monitoring system is very unlikely to be complete. I would not be surprised if the true Heparin associated death rate were 2-3 times as high. Anaphylactic reactions are not universally fatal, so I suspect that for every death there might be ten people who were injured, some of who will not fully recover. Some will have been weakened at a critical point, and then died of other causes.

So let's make a wild guess, and estimate that 2,000 to 3,000 Americans were seriously injured or killed by a fraudulent version of an extensively used medication. Since up to 10% of our Heparin supply was affected by the fraud, that's not too shocking. In fact there's reason to suspect the practice started before January 2007, so the total could be higher.

But that's only one drug. And that's only the US. If we include all the wealthy nations of the earth (it's a cheap widely used drug but the most common uses are for expensive treatments) we can guess that 5,000 to 30,000 people have died or been badly injured as a result of fraudulent medications or fraudulent food practices over the past 2-3 years.

That's a fair total, so the curious thing in this affair is the public silence. There's a great deal of unmerited anxiety about immunizations, but very little about fraud and our food and medication supply.

So, why is America silent? Is this a variant of the social phenomena that leads to complacency about climate change?

I don't think so. Climate change complacency is relatively easy to understand -- for many Americans a warmer climate is seen as a net plus, and even some plausible experts feel our only hope is a technological breakthrough in either energy production or carbon sequestration.

This feels different. My best guess is a kind of learned helplessness, the result of 12 years of GOP destruction of government* and the obvious failure of Libertarian dreams of emergent market-driven auto-regulation.

If I'm right, matters will only improve if McCain loses the presidency and both the House and Senate stay Democrat. I don't see any other configuration that will allow the rebuilding of our government.

* 8 years of Bush, and during Clinton's last term the House and Senate were both GOP. It's much easier to destroy than to create or maintain, so control of either the presidency or the legislature is sufficient to destroy  government.


Anonymous said...

Two comments strike me as important enough to comment on.

“There's a great deal of unmerited anxiety about immunizations.”

Had you left out the word unmerited no comment would be necessary.

It’s somewhat shocking that the thousands of parents who are concerned about immunizations, many who have witnessed catastrophic changes in their babies and young children after receiving immunizations might be considered as not warranting attention.

The recent increase in immunization schedules and the numbers thereof are shocking. Mercury, aluminum and other toxic substances are still included as part of some immunizations and it is undeniable that the relationship between those substances and the onset of, or burden on a preexisting state of mitochondria and other debilitating conditions has yet to be clarified.

Are immunization doses measured to each individual’s size and weight or is that not necessary regardless of the individual ability of each infant’s immune systems ability to deal with the onslaught of such substances? Not to mention the relationship between the pharmaceutical industry and the world of medical practitioners and institutions that research pharmaceuticals.

Definitive answers as to causality of mitochondria, newly defined questions regarding this disorder and its relationship to the immunization process have yet to be discounted one way or the other.

I do whole-heartedly agree that the definition of autism is too broad.

The increase of autism over the past several decades from one in thousands to one in one hundred and fifty should be a huge wake up call. Nothing short of an examination of all possible links should be strongly pursued.

I will resist further comment other than to scold you for the use of the word unmerited.

“So, why is America silent? Is this a variant of the social phenomena that leads to complacency about climate change?”

Why are large numbers of Americans not parading in the streets about the war in Iraq, the failing economy where thousands have lost their homes and are living in tent cities in California, the complete incompetence and immorality of our government and the loss of so many constitutional rights? The list could be a lot longer.

I would suggest that the grip of materialism and the resulting need to feed the American dream might be one answer. The western world has entered into a consensus trance where little else is left over to penetrate and change the issues that have crept up upon us.

“It's much easier to destroy than to create.” I am with you all the way on most of what you write.

I turn every morning to your posts and they give me much food for thought, porridge, whole wheat, nut and honey bread for breakfast. Your comments stick to the ribs. But please, that pinch of flippancy is a pinch not needed.

Warm regards, Alan

Rudee said...

I myself have written about this very problem from a caregiver's POV. See my April 7th post for my take as a critical care nurse. This is a terrible and frightening scenario. However, as most consumers of modern medicine are used to being led like lambs, I am not surprised that there is no public outrage.

What truly surprises me is the lack of knowledge of this event within the medical community. I recently encountered a patient's family who were concerned their loved one was a victim of this event. The docs had no clue to why heparin had been recalled to begin with. It seems drug companies and the FDA have been shepherding even them.

As to Alan's comment regarding unmerited concern about Autism and vaccines, I agree. One only needs to walk in my shoes for a bit to get it. Like the good lamb that I am, I did what my pediatrician and society told me and vaccinated my daughter. I think those vaccines or what is in them robbed us of a mundane life. What I wouldn't give for a ho-hum day.

Anonymous said...

You have a really interesting point about all of this. I have been blogging about the influx of contaminated dogfood, toothpaste, toys, now heparin, but I never really considered why Americans were not showing the same outrage that they would for vaccines, etc. I think the potential flu shot shortage got more attention than this. And its sad because people in hospitals need this heparin and they are not in a position to refuse its use. We owe it to these people to stand up the FDA and drug manufacturers who have plenty of money and can afford to make drugs that aren't hurting people.

JGF said...

Just for the record -- our children, including one with classic autism and one with a much more complex picture, receive a full series of immunizations and they'll continue to be immunized.

Science is never 100% about anything (ok, so death is certain), but immunizations have been very well evaluated. The balance of the evidence I've reviewed is very positive in favor of immunizations.