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May 23, 2003

How do you spell death? B-a-y-e-r

Proof that corporate evil is a redundant phrase: "2 Paths of Bayer Drug in 80's: Riskier Type Went Overseas" [Walt Bogdanich and Eric Koli, Business sec., New York Times, 5/22/03]. Please, please read this. But I'll attempt a summary below.

Cutter Biological, a division of Bayer, sold Factor VIII concentrate, a blood-clotting medicine for hemophiliacs. This medicine was made from donated plasma, but at the time this product was made, the AIDS epidemic was just breaking out, and the connection hadn't been made that blood could transmit the virus. No screening test for AIDS was available yet. So a person using this tainted medicine was likely to contract the virus, suffer full-blown AIDS, and die. According to the article:

In the United States, AIDS was passed on to thousands of hemophiliacs, many of whom died, in one of the worst drug-related medical disasters in history. While admitting no wrongdoing, Bayer and three other companies that made the concentrate have paid hemophiliacs about $600 million to settle more than 15 years of lawsuits accusing them of making a dangerous product.

By heat-treating the blood product, however, the virus was "undetectable," virtually destroyed. This safer version was sold in the West, because the original product was no longer marketable. But there was an overstock of the the older, contaminated medicine, and Cutter offloaded what it could in Asia and Latin America. Moreover, Cutter continued to make the contaminated product for several months after the newer, safer medicine was available. The litigation involving American hemophiliacs generated the Cutter documents, including a telex that indicated "the company had several fixed-price contracts and believed that the old product would be cheaper to produce."

The article quotes various individuals who were involved in some way, corporate, officially, or medically. But the ones that stand out are the people who have either contracted the virus from the tainted medicine or those who've lost loved ones:

Li Wei-chun said her son, who died in 1996 at the age of 23, was one of the hemophiliacs in Hong Kong who got AIDS after using that product. "They did not care about the lives in Asia," Ms. Li said in a recent interview. "It was racial discrimination.".

And again:

The delay [in obtaining the new medicine] harmed more than just the hemophiliacs, said Mrs. Li, the mother of the young hemophiliac who died of AIDS in 1993. Infected with a terrible and still mysterious disease, hemophiliacs were often shunned by family, friends and employers.

"It was the immoral drug company that caused some families to fall apart," she said. "They blamed and tortured each other. It was better to die than to live."

Yours, &c., LC | 10:29 AM | | Comments (2)

Comments

Don't do legal drugs. That's all I have to say.

Posted by: PS at May 26, 2003 01:22 AM

i read and skimmed most of the article. i was extremely angry and utterly surprised over what people/corporations will do for a buck. i'm glad that bayer has never received any of my money, and if they had, i would surely boycott them now. this is the most unethical of things a corporation could do. i feel bad for the employees who were not aware of what was going on, but the feds need to just shut down this corporation and jail those resposible for all the people murdered!

Posted by: marco at May 27, 2003 04:52 PM