Heparin Recall and Consumer Safety

In a reversal of sorts, the Chinese drug safety officials have now decided to take responsibility for the oversight and supervision of their blood thinnning product, heparin. Initially, the Chinese had stated that it was the exporters responsibility for safety oversight of the product they were exporting. In the wake of US identification of the heparin contaminant, they reversed course and stated they would indeed order new oversight procedures for the manufacture of heparin. This is good news but it doesn’t ensure consumer safety. Two other important safety measures must be utilized to make sure the public is safe from contaminated drugs. First, the US has to play a major role in the monitoring and evaluation of imported drugs, including heparin. We can’t just take another’s word that they are in compliance. We must trust but verify. The third major component concerns the tort system in the United States. The consumer’s ability and right to hold someone accountable in a court of law accomplishes two things: 1)it makes the manufacturer or supplier aware that defective products or harmful drugs will not be tolerated, 2)it provides the consumer an avenue for redress of wrongdoing. If the consumer is injured by a harmful drug such as the 19 people who died as a result of the contaminated heparin, they can seek justice in the courts. These three measures are really nothing more than a system of checks and balances that has worked for our country since its inception.