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When Medicine Makes Patients Sicker

The Food and Drug Administration is supposed to inspect all factories, foreign and domestic, that produce drugs for the U.S. market. But a KHN review of thousands of FDA documents — inspection records, recalls, warning letters and lawsuits — reveals how drugs that are poorly manufactured or contaminated can reach consumers.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Despite the jackhammer-like rhythm of a mechanical ventilator, Alicia Moreno had dozed off in a chair by her 1-year-old’s hospital bed, when a doctor woke her with some bad news: The common stool softener her son, Anderson, was given months earlier had been contaminated with the bacterium Burkholderia cepacia.

Suddenly, Anderson’s rocky course made medical sense. B. cepacia was the same unusual bacterium mysteriously found in the boy’s respiratory tract, temporarily taking him off the list for a heart transplant. The same bacterium resurfaced after his transplant and combined with a flu-like illness to infect his lungs. He’s been on a ventilator ever since.

The tainted over-the-counter medicine, docusate sodium, routinely prescribed to nearly every hospitalized patient to avert constipation, caused Anderson to suffer “serious and dangerous life-threatening injuries,” a lawsuit filed by his family alleges. The drug was eventually recalled, but only after a Texas hospital staff noticed an uptick in B. cepacia infections, prompting a six-month investigation that led back to the tainted drug and its Florida manufacturing plant.

“Something that was supposed to help him hurt him,” Alicia Moreno said.

Since the start of 2013, pharmaceutical companies based in the U.S. or abroad...... Read the rest here

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