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Deaths linked to heparin use rise to 149

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Bloomberg News / June 17, 2008

NEW YORK - The blood thinner heparin has been linked to 149 US deaths in people who had allergic reactions after taking it, US regulators said.

The new tally, posted yesterday on the Food and Drug Administration's website, expands the toll of people who took the drug and suffered allergic reactions. The agency said in April it knew of 81 people who died after suffering allergic reactions from the drug, made from pig intestines.

Baxter International Inc. recalled its version of heparin in January after reports of harmful side effects. Baxter has said it believes the blood thinner was intentionally contaminated during the manufacturing process in China.

Members of Congress have called for drug makers to pay higher fees to fund inspection of overseas factories that make drug ingredients.

The FDA said it collected reports of 248 deaths of people who had taken heparin since Jan. 1, 2007. Of those, 149 were people who suffered allergic reactions. In most deaths, the FDA said it didn't have enough evidence to determine if heparin was to blame.

Prior to the recall, Deerfield, Illinois-based Baxter supplied 50 percent of the heparin in the United States. The company hasn't decided whether to begin selling the product again and is still investigating the cause of the contamination, Baxter spokeswoman Erin Gardiner said yesterday in a telephone interview.

The number of reported deaths spiked in January at 50 and declined to five last month, the FDA said yesterday. The agency said all supplies of heparin currently sold in the United States are safe.

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