FDA triples heparin death count

The heparin death toll is far worse than we originally thought. The FDA has tripled the number of deaths it's attributing to allergic reactions to the blood thinner since January 2007, to 62 from 19. The increase comes not from new deaths, but from newly received reports and expanded analysis, the agency says.

By contrast, three people died from heparin reactions in 2006, the agency notes. "What's really striking is the large number in such a short period of time," an FDA official told the Wall Street Journal.

Heparin, of course, has been in the news since January, when Baxter first recalled lots of its blood thinner that had been linked with allergic reactions. Since then, the company has recalled almost all its heparin products, and several other drug makers have withdrawn their heparin products, too. Investigations unearthed contamination in a Chinese-made active ingredient, but that contaminant hasn't been proven to cause the reactions.

Meanwhile, the FDA sent a letter to device manufacturers Tuesday, warning them to review the sources of heparin used in their products, some of which are coated with the drug.

- check out the article in the Washington Post
- find the Associated Press coverage
- see the WSJ story
- read the item in the WSJ Health Blog

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