Lawmaker questions FDA investigation of heparin scandal

A Washington lawmaker is raising concerns about the FDA’s handling of the tainted heparin scandal earlier this year, claiming that the agency misrepresented deaths tied to the product and didn’t thoroughly investigate the situation, according to CNN Money.

Batches of heparin were recalled by the FDA earlier this year after lots manufactured in China were found to have been contaminated with over-sulfated chondroitin sulfate. The investigation and subsequent recall followed reports of more than 80 deaths and thousands more illnesses of patients who had received doses of heparin from the lots in question.

Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, last week pointed out that the FDA made conflicting statements to the public and Congress about the number of deaths caused by the blood thinner. Last May, the FDA said it completed a review of three deaths linked to the tainted heparin. Last month, the FDA told Congress that only two deaths were possibly linked to the incident and the third was “unassessable.”

Baxter International, the company involved in the tainted heparin incident, conducted its own investigation and determined that the contaminant was likely not the cause of death in any of the three cases mentioned by the FDA. Baxter’s investigators reviewed patient medical records, interviewed pharmacists and nurses, and visited a hospital where one of the patients had gone before dying.

The FDA came under fire over the tainted heparin scandal after admitting it did not properly inspect Baxter’s China facility. Inspecting all foreign drug manufacturing facilities could take as long as 13 years, the agency has reported. This week the FDA opened its first foreign office, located in Beijing, China, as part of a push to place more than 60 food and drug regulators worldwide to provide guidance on U.S. food and drug quality standards.