Researchers said they have confirmed the Food and Drug Administration's suspicion that the contaminant found in the blood thinner heparin was oversulfated chondroitin sulfate, which is a derivative of a popular supplement used to relieve arthritis. It can resemble the active ingredient in heparin but is cheaper, making investigators think that it may have been deliberately substituted, Reuters reports. The independent researchers, led by Ram Sasisekharan of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, studied heparin samples in order to analyze the structure of the medicine and identify any contaminants.
The contamination has been linked to 81 deaths and many allergic reactions. In February, Baxter International Inc. recalled most heparin products with ingredients made in China. Contaminated heparin products were found in at least 11 countries. The Chinese government and drug manufacturing firms this week placed the blame for the heparin mishap on processing facilities in the United States, but U.S. lawmakers called on the FDA to take some responsibility.
A recent special report in U.S. News explained how to tell if your drugs are safe (and why they might not be).