1. 17 infants get lethal heparin overdose

    17 infants get lethal heparin overdose

    I've told you that hospital-acquired infections are a major factor in thousands of needless deaths every year. And now recent news has revealed yet another deadly secret of hospitals - ineptitude. Nothing highlights this more than the tragic story of the infants at a Corpus Christi, TX, hospital who were mistakenly overdosed with the blood thinner heparin - one of whom has died.

    To recap the facts of this sad story, as many as 17 babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) received an overdose of the anticoagulant heparin (used to clean the IVs of patients and to prevent blood from clotting). Shockingly, this problem was not discovered until TWO DAYS after the overdoses had been administered. It's still early in the investigation, but the hospital released a statement saying that "the medication error occurred during the mixing process within the hospital pharmacy."

    Naturally, the hospital has already begun the predictable legal backpedaling. The hospital's chief medical officer Dr. Richard Davis says that it's still unclear what role, if any, the heparin overdose played in the infant's death because the child was already seriously ill and being cared for in the NICU. That's like saying it's not clear what role being hit by a speeding car played in the death of an individual because he was already dying of liver disease!

    Remember, these children were in the NICU - that's supposed to be INTENSIVE CARE, meaning that the patients are being closely monitored and watched. Especially since they're already in a tenuous health situation. For the chief medical officer of the hospital to actually say that it's unclear if the heparin overdose caused the death is outrageous. Even if it didn't DIRECTLY cause the death, ANY overdose could shake the foundation of an already fragile life.

    Of the 16 remaining infants who were subjected to this overdose, three have been discharged from the hospital, 12 are in stable condition in the NICU, and one is still in critical and unstable condition (though the hospital claims that this has been the child's status ever since being admitted to the NICU).

    There's a reason heparin may be ringing a bell with you. Last November, actor Dennis Quaid's 12-day-old twins were victims of a similar medication error. Quaid's children received - ready for this? - 10,000 times the prescribed dosage of heparin, and nearly died. There was a piece on 60 Minutes about this incident, and Quaid has since helped sound the alarm on the dangers of hospital mistakes. He has even testified before a Congressional committee on government oversight.

    "We all have this inherent thing that we trust doctors and nurses, that they know what they're doing," Quaid said on 60 Minutes. "But this mistake occurred right under our noses the nurse didn't even bother to look at the dosage on the bottle." Indeed, as much as lazy hygiene habits can cause the spread of deadly infections in hospitals, lazy work habits on the part of hospital staff members (nurses, pharmacists, and even doctors) can be just as dangerous. Of course, in hospitals, when workers goof up, people die.

    Keep your eyes out for the results of the autopsy on this unfortunate baby. And stay the heck out of hospitals whenever you can - no matter how old you are.

    CDC keeps beating the vaccine drum

    Once again, the pro-vaccine lobby has gotten a boost from Uncle Sam. The CDC recently reported that a new rotavirus vaccine has successfully blunted this year's rotavirus season.

    "The changes appear to be greater than expected based on the protective effects of the vaccine alone," said Dr. Anne Schuchat of the CDC, adding that it's "possible" the current levels of the vaccination may be helping to lessen the spread of rotavirus to the "unvaccinated individuals in the community."

    The vaccine in question is produced by the Big Pharma giant Merck, and is given at ages two months, four months, and six months (that's a lot of vaccine being shot into children over a short amount of time and for each shot, the folks at Merck hear the "ka-ching" of the cash register).

    Merck is doubtlessly thrilled by the CDC's endorsement, but excuse me if I don't share their enthusiasm. It bothers me that the CDC is so willing to make these proclamations when they know full well that virus seasons are cyclical - some seasons are worse than others. So while the claim that the number of cases of rotavirus are down across the board may be true, it's a leap to link this to the new vaccine without some more careful analysis. But as you know, the pro-vaccine movement is strong, and statistics be damned: they'll do anything to promote those useless shots!

    Just more proof that the battle against vaccines is always uphill. But we struggle on.

  2. Deadly Chinese blood thinner found in 11 countries

    Deadly Chinese blood thinner found in 11 countries

    China is in the news all the time these days, mostly because of the media hype leading up to this year's summer Olympic games in Beijing. But what the Chinese government surely hoped would be a months-long love fest for the world's fastest-growing economy hasn't developed. Instead, an increase of access for the Western press has resulted in a torrent of news stories exposing China's shortcomings on the environment, human rights, and other issues.

    Personally, I'm happy about this. I think that the Chinese government has been allowed to slide for far too long. Too often, China's misdeeds are swept beneath the rug in the interest of trade or politics. There is a seemingly endless line of toxic and deadly goods (from toys to toothpaste) that are churned out by China's factories and foisted on American consumers. And yet, no matter how many times these dangerous goods are exposed, nothing seems to change - there's always another incident a few weeks later.

    And sad to say here we go again. But this time, it's not just Americans that are at risk.

    The FDA has warned a Chinese pharmaceutical manufacturer about contaminated heparin - a blood thinner that's been traced to one of their plants. This tainted blood thinner has been linked to 81 deaths in the U.S. and what's more, the FDA believes it's present in the drug supplies of 10 other countries.

    In total, federal regulators have identified a dozen Chinese companies that supplied these corrupted doses to Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand and, of course, China (the Chinese rarely discriminate with their deadly goods; in fact, it's likely that Chinese consumers get most of the dangerous Chinese goods because of their country's lax safety standards).

    According to the FDA, the contaminate in question is a "cheap fake additive" - oversulfated chondroitin sulfate - which can only be detected with sophisticated tests. And that's not all: U.S. inspectors also allege that the Chinese plants used unclean tanks during the manufacture of the drugs, incorporated raw materials from an "unacceptable" vendor, and had no process in place to remove impurities.

    And how do the Chinese respond to these allegations? Deny, deny, deny. According to a secretary of the Chinese embassy, "We don't have strong evidence to show that it is heparin or its contaminant that caused the problem." Incredible.

    The Chinese even had the unmitigated gall to insist that Chinese inspectors be allowed to inspect the U.S. pharmaceutical plant where the final stages of the drug's production took place! Talk about trying to put the victims on trial

    Unfortunately, our problems with China are just getting started.

    The 21st century could belong to the Chinese in the same way that the 20th century belonged to Americans. Because China floats on a veritable sea of cheap labor, they've been able transform their country from a backwater to a robust industrial giant in an incredibly short span of time. And, much like the growing United States of the 19th century, they are plowing forward without paying much attention to standards.

    I think the time has come for government agencies to do more than merely point out the many Chinese safety missteps. The time has come for a restriction on Chinese imports - ESPECIALLY pharmaceutical imports. When patients are DYING as a result of the poor hygiene standards in Asia, it's time for action.

    You know what's at work here: a profit motive. Chinese heparin is far less expensive than the American made variety, which is why Big Pharma is happy to import it. When Big Pharma spends less on making the drugs, they can pass the savings on to the consumer, right? HA! Just kidding - of course, any savings Big Pharma companies realize from the manufacturing of drugs only increases their profits.

    So what's an American consumer to do? If you ask me, I think it would be wise to purchase as few Chinese-made goods as possible. If you shop at Wal-Mart, this is nearly impossible. But at the very least, you should try to find out as much about the origin of the ingredients that are in any prescription drugs you take.

    As always, you are your own last line of defense. When it comes to drugs or anything you put in your body - stay away from the "Made in China" label.

  3. How will you be affected by the latest FDA mix-up?

    The good news is that FDA officials were in China to look into the safety of a Chinese- made drug that's found in heparin, a blood thinner made by Baxter International. The bad news? They actually evaluated the wrong factory.

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