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In the Newsroom

December 17, 2008
A baby dies because of tainted heparin

Alex and Ann Oryschak with their son, Julien, who died in 2007.

Worldfocus editorial consultant Peter Eisner writes about his experience reporting on a Worldfocus signature story on the contamination of U.S. drugs: Contaminated drug imports threaten Americans.

As usual, after you do all the reporting and analysis, the human dimensions of a news story bring it all home.

Producer Ara Ayer and I interviewed a young couple, Alex and Ann Oryschak, for a number of hours in November 2008. Their infant son, Julien, was a sick little boy — but they think that the blood thinner heparin may have contributed to his death. He was eight months old.

We spoke to the Oryschaks on the one-year anniversary of Julien’s death on Nov. 19, 2007. The Oryschaks were willing to speak about this in hopes that their pain might lead to changes in the regulation of drugs. Perhaps, Ann Oryschak told me, another mother would not have to see her child suffer and die in the same way.

Perhaps the most surprising fact that emerged in our three months of reporting on contaminated heparin ingredients from China: The U.S. government has little ability to know whether the drugs we are taking are safe or not.

The Food and Drug Administration just doesn’t know how many people died as a result of the heparin problem. The FDA doesn’t have the staff to inspect more than a handful of the thousands of laboratories in China, India and other parts of the world.

The U.S. government doesn’t require doctors and hospitals to provide immediate information on unusual occurrences leading to injury and death. And medical professionals are often too busy and too worried about lawsuits to file such reports. We may not know about more than about 1 percent of the cases of people harmed or even killed by adulterated heparin.

As a result, doctors must take it on faith that the medicines they are prescribing are exactly what they are supposed to be. One physician I spoke to, Dr. Frederick Rickles, a hematologist at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., said that the heparin case is not isolated.

“We see on a regular basis evidence for manufacturing problems throughout the industry and it shouldn’t surprise anyone. It occurs with automobiles, it occurs with jet planes, why wouldn’t it occur with the production of…complex medications.”

– Peter Eisner

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Comments

6 comments

#6

Hi, its me again, I have been thinking about Alex and Ann all day long, I am sorry for the loss of your son Julien. I have been so caught up in my own grief, I forget others hurt just as much as I. I really wish we could find others out there and pull together and change some things in our health care system. Like if a person gets a tainted medicated, that they are not push to the end of the line. That is why I want to find others who have been burned.

Once again I am sorry for your loss.

#5

Oh Please email me at TaintedHeparin@gmail.com
thanks

#4

I believe my husband died due to Tainted Heparin that he received in Feb/Mar 2008. I would love to talk with others and hear what they have to say.

#3

I personnally know this family and no one should ever experience what they went through. Little Julien was such a fighter and had so much to offer the world. I am totally shocked that Dr. Rickles stated that we shouldn’t be surprised with tainted medications. These meds should be inspected thoroughly before our children are given them.

#2

I’m Alex’s brother and Julien fought so hard for his little life and this drug company and the FDA murdered him. I remember baby sitting this little guy and how much he smiled. Disgusting what happened. I hope they get justice soon.

#1

Nothing, since this President took office, shocks me anymore. I just finished writing a never too be published letter to the editor about the fury of the Christian public to buy all their Christmas glitter from China. China a country who killed babies with tainted milk, killed, or left homeless, millions by their support of Sudan with their hunger for oil, and of course the killing of US residents mentioned in this fine article. Also would like to mention that I am 69 years old and because of my age spent 15 years or more being hazzled by doctors, and tv messages, to “get a colonoscopy”. I always said no. I said no because of the medicine given to cleanse and also because I do not trust the plastic tubing.

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