Saturday, March 08, 2008

SUPPLY CHAIN FROM CHINA: Heparin supplies tainted worldwide


You ain't seen nothin' yet, greedy American businessmen.

"As worries over the heparin blood thinner critical to hospitals and dialysis centers spread to Europe, Chicago-area makers of the product said Friday that they are ratcheting up scrutiny of their own product supply chains in China and the U.S.," reported the Chicago Tribune today.

As you browse out to read this story, be on watch for any statments which might indicate remorse on the part of American suppliers of drugs who outsourced their purification to China without caring, until after problems surfaced, whether or not their processes were diligently performed. You'll have to look hard because there aren't any.

All that you will read is how their supplies are tainted and they're scrambling to maintain an untenable business position, trying to preserve the market with new supplies of a drug after they've have demonstated none of their supplies can be trusted.

"A huge producer of pigs, China is the largest supplier of [heparin] found in the mucous lining of the animal's intestines ..." continued the newspaper. "Investigators are looking in China for an answer to the mystery and are focusing partly on the fact that suspect heparin-like material was found in Baxter's product." (The reader may drily note that as a gargantuan supplier of pigs, China is also the world's yearly supplier of flu.)

"The suspicious material may have been introduced intentionally before the product reached Baxter's U.S. factory in New Jersey, the FDA said. Baxter got its heparin from a plant in Changzhou, China, which was sourced by village workshops and rural pig lots. The plant is owned by Wisconsin-based Scientific Protein Laboratories."

The upshot here, one is being gingerly skirted, is that a cheap adulterant was added to inflate profit, an adulterant chosen so that it would sail through the cursory tests put in place to ensure quality. And this is the same pattern in last year's mass recall of pet food. An ingredient of pet food, produced in China, was stepped on with a toxic adulterant chosen because it would test as valid protein in the simple tests performed by the American pet food industry.

"China is also the source of the necessary active ingredients produced by Schaumburg-based APP Pharmaceuticals Inc., now the principal supplier of heparin in the U.S.," reported the newspaper. "APP said it uses a different supplier than Baxter and is confident in its supply's safety, but it will use the more complex testing method going forward.

"Despite Baxter's role as supplying half of the U.S. market for heparin used in hospitals, APP said it will be able to supply U.S. health facilities even if Baxter's Chinese supply chain remains off the market for as long as a year ... Baxter said it would be unable to use Scientific Protein Laboratories' U.S.-based supply of heparin ingredients because there is not enough active ingredient in the U.S. and Canada to fulfill its needs."

An appropriate response by the US government would be one employed against ChemNutra, the North American supplier of pet food in the chain of supply which put toxic chemicals, made in China, into its product. Criminal charges were levelled against the company's CEO earlier this year.

Baxter International should be the object of a criminal investigation, its operation effectively put out of the drug business until a full accounting is possible.

After 9/11, the US government was overrun with security experts predicting the many ways Islamic terrorists could easily attack the country. Two of allegedly most catastrophic methods were bioterrorism and agroterrorism. Scenarios were concocted and published, events in which hundreds or even hundreds of thousands of potential casualties were predicted.

In the intervening time, the US has not seen any attempts by Islamic terrorists to poison its people, or its food and drug supplies.

On the other hand, it has seen that unscrupulous and/or unwise American businessmen, in their search for profits through use of the slave labor pool in China, as well as that country's lack of any consumer protections, introduce two distinct mass poisonings into the country. One hit pets in 2007 and -- now -- one has impacted patients, probably killing at least nineteen, in the US health care system.

Imagine what would be happening if this most recent poisoning had been attributed to terror instead of business gone bad. None of the companies in question would be open for business ever again.

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