A product made by Fresenius and B. Braun Holding to increase blood volume in critically ill patients increases the risk of death and kidney damage and should no longer be used, a researcher with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine recommended.
Hydroxyethyl starch solution, also known as colloid fluid or crystalloid fluid, is used to stabilize patients with low blood pressure caused by conditions such as dehydration, blood loss, shock, and organ damage from blood infections. Hydroxyethyl starch is widely used in Europe, the UK and Canada, but not as popular in the U.S. An alternative fluid for these patients is a saline-based fluid.
Ian Roberts, the researcher who led the study, said there was a 10 percent greater risk of death with hydroxyethyl starch than with other treatments. Furthermore, the product was more expensive and can cause “almost certain harm” compared to saline-based fluids. “The obvious thing to do is to switch to a saline.” Roberts has petitioned the UK Department of Health asking its National Health Service to stop using the product.
Fresenius is the world’s top seller of hydroxyethyl starch, which makes up a small percentage of the company’s business. Fresenius is most known as being the world’s largest provider of dialysis products and services. Earlier this year the company was slapped with numerous wrongful death lawsuits alleging that inadequate labeling and warnings for its dialysate concentrate products NaturaLyte and GranuFlo used during dialysis caused harm to patients.
The products contain an ingredient that converts to bicarbonate during treatment, but GranuFlo and NaturaLyte contain more of this ingredient that competitor products. High levels of bicarbonate in the blood have been linked to heart problems, including sudden cardiac death.