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Baxter settles with 10 families in Spain deaths

Nov 29, 2001 | Chicago Sun TImes Baxter International Inc. said Tuesday that it has agreed to pay about $289,000 to each of the families of 10 patients in Spain who died following kidney dialysis treatments using Baxter products.

The announcement came three weeks after Baxter said a processing fluid used in routine testing of blood filter products made at its manufacturing plant in Ronneby, Sweden, likely played a role in some kidney dialysis patient deaths in the United States and in several other countries. The chemical, used to test for leaks in the company's Althane blood filters, called dialyzers, was not fully removed prior to the products being shipped, and ended up in patients' bloodstreams.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other health authorities, including the Spanish Health Ministry, have been investigating more than 50 deaths from this summer and fall linked to the Baxter filters or dialyzers. The deaths have occurred in Croatia, Spain, Taiwan, Colombia, Texas and Nebraska. All of the patients were using dialyzers, which help remove waste from the blood of patients with failed kidneys.

Last week, the Spanish government said it would take legal action against Baxter over 11 kidney patient deaths in Spain.

The families involved in the settlement have asked Spanish authorities to end a criminal investigation into the matter, said Baxter spokeswoman Sally Benjamin Young. She said as part of the nearly $3 million settlement, the families have agreed not to sue Baxter.

The Spanish health ministry's investigation into the deaths remains open. A ministry spokesman in Madrid said there's no connection between the Baxter deal and the investigation.

"We feel that the settlement each family reached with Baxter is fair and reasonable," Manuel Mata, an attorney who represents nine of the families in Spain, said in a released statement. "Baxter has treated the families with great respect during this unusually difficult time. The families are comforted in knowing that Baxter continues looking into the science surrounding these tragic events to ensure it will never happen again."

A negligence lawsuit filed against the company in Cook County Circuit Court in the death of Calvin Loverling, a New Jersey resident who died a day after undergoing dialysis on a Baxter machine, seeks class-action status.

Baxter hopes to reach settlements with other affected families, Young said.

"We have a very strong interest in working with all families who have been affected by these unfortunate circumstances and reaching a fair and respectful settlement," she said.

Baxter has stopped production of all three dialysis product lines made at its Ronneby plant and said it will permanently cease production of its Althane series dialyzers.

It has said it expects to take a charge of $100 million to $150 million in the fourth quarter to cover the cost of discontinuing the products and expected lawsuits by patients.

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