Bayer hit with 'bad blood' lawsuit

Thousands of haemophiliacs file a class action lawsuit against Bayer and three other companies alleging they exposed patients to HIV

Thousands of hemophiliacs in the United States have filed a lawsuit against Bayer Corp. and three other companies alleging they knowingly exposed patients to HIV and hepatitis C.

The lawsuit centres on a blood clotting product called Factor VIII concentrate. The suit alleges that the companies continued to sell a batch of it in Asia and Latin America in 1984 and 1985, after they stopped selling it in the United States and Europe because of the known risk of HIV and hepatitis transmission.

"This is a worldwide tragedy," said Robert Nelson, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs. "Thousands of hemophiliacs have died from AIDS and many more are infected with HIV or hepatitis C."

Nelson said the lawsuit seeks class-action status on behalf of thousands of foreign hemophiliacs who received the product.

This suit comes less than two weeks after a damning article in the New York Times reported that Bayer knowingly sold the product in Asia and South America, in attempts to rid itself of the stock, while it sold a safer product in Europe and North America.

The four companies named in the suit are Bayer, Baxter Healthcare Corporation, Armour Pharmaceutical Company and Alpha Therapeutic Corporation.

The suit alleges contaminated blood products infected at least 5,000 hemophiliacs in Europe, of which more than 2,000 have developed AIDS and 1,250 have died from the disease.

Factor VIII concentrate was made from mingled plasma from 10,000 or more donors. It was designed to stop and prevent bleeding in hemophiliacs.

The product was made at a time when there was no screening test for HIV, but the lawsuit alleges the companies failed to take precautions that could have made the product safer.