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Hemophiliacs' suit says Baxter, Bayer products caused HIV, hepatitis C

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Hemophiliacs' suit says Baxter, Bayer products caused HIV, hepatitis C

June 4, 2003



Deerfield-based Baxter International Inc., the world's biggest maker of blood treatment products, and Bayer Corp. were hit with a lawsuit by hemophiliacs who say they contracted HIV and or hepatitis C from contaminated products sold by the companies.

The lawsuit claims the companies continued selling the products in Asia and Latin America in 1984 and 1985, even after they ceased selling them in the United States because of the risk of HIV and hepatitis being transmitted.

The lawsuit, which was filed in California and seeks class-action status, also names Armour Pharmaceutical and Alpha Therapeutic. It alleges the companies intentionally sold products that they knew or should have known to be infected with the agents that cause AIDS and hepatitis C.

Baxter makes Factor VIII products used to treat patients with hemophilia, a disease that prevents blood from clotting properly.

Besides Factor VIII, the products referenced in the suit made by the companies include Factor IX and factor concentrate. The products help stop or prevent life-threatening bleeding.

The lawsuit was brought on behalf of hemophiliacs living outside the United States or their survivors.

It alleges the defendants recruited and paid donors and or bought plasma--which is used in the production of the products--that it knowingly obtained from the highest-risk populations. The companies failed to exclude donors with a history of viral hepatitis, and to conduct tests that would have substantially reduced the likelihood of plasma containing HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and Hepatitis C, the suit contends.

Baxter and the other companies agreed in 1997 to pay more than $600 million to settle lawsuits brought on behalf of hemophiliacs who claimed the companies knowingly sold HIV contaminated products.

Baxter spokeswoman Deborah Spak called the latest suit "a little strange, given the fact that these incidents occurred more than 20 years ago and that over many many years in order to minimize the burden the hemophiliac community has faced, we have participated in settlements and humanitarian [activities] throughout the world."

She declined comment on potential financial implications to the company.

Bayer said it will defend itself against the suit and that it acted ''in accordance with existing regulations in each country and in accordance with the scientific knowledge at the time.''

Contributing: AP



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