The WSJ Has Gordon Fairclough in China
After “blowing brains” at the “head table,” today’s WSJ describes in words and pictures possibly the second worst job in the world and answers my question, Where Does Heparin Come From? Specifically the article features an unsettling slide show in which Chinese workers wring and slurry pig intestines for heparin extraction (thanks, Mr. Fairclough).
The article also highlights contrary views on the importance of being able to trace heparin’s source for safety purposes, possibly to an individual pig. The FDA contends that heparin’s chemical-purification process ensures the product’s safety, regardless of the source animal, while the chairman of APP (Baxter’s heparin rival) asserts that a heparin-pig provenance record is essential.
According to the WSJ, APP’s Chinese heparin supplier claims that it can trace its product to a single animal. However, given the seemingly routine maze of middlemen and facilities—some very crude—that exist between slaughterhouse and final supplier in China, this claim would be best viewed skeptically.
Still unknown is whether any of this information has anything to do with the severe allergic reactions associated with Baxter’s recalled heparin. Buried deep (graf 6) in a WSJ article from February 19 is the claim that “Baxter disclosed that the variations [of its recalled heparin] from standard product occurred in the Chinese-made batches,” but the company has otherwise kept mum.