Dennis Quaid Settles Heparin Overdose Lawsuit

Dennis and Kimberly Quaid have settled their highly publicized <"">Heparin lawsuit with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.  According to the Los Angeles Times, the Quaid’s settled for $750,000 over a serious—potentially deadly—Heparin dosing error last year, citing court papers filed earlier this week in Los Angeles County Superior Court.  Last year, the newborn twins—Thomas Boone and Zoe Grace—were dosed with 1,000 times the recommended does of the blood thinner, noted the LA Times, which added that a suit against drug maker Baxter Healthcare Corporation continues.  The Wall Street Journal notes that a lawsuit was not brought against Cedars-Sinai and that Quaid had said earlier this year that while he was not looking to sue the hospital, he hoped it would implement measures to improve patient safety.

Heparin is a blood thinner, and the vital drug is used in surgery, dialysis, and to prevent blood clots in the bedridden.  Other drugs thin blood, but do not work as quickly as Heparin, and their effects are not as easily reversed.  Baxter International manufactures about half of the multi-dose Heparin vials used in the US.

The dosing error made by nurses at Cedars-Sinai landed the babies in critical condition and with the potential to bleed out, said the LA Times, which also said that although the hospital was not sued, it was described in legal paperwork as “potential defendant.”  According to the LA Times piece, Cedars-Sinai hospital “officials have cited at least three safety lapses that led to the overdoses”; the Wall Street Journal also stated that an internal inquiry at the Cedars-Sinai revealed the incident involved three separate safety lapses.

The Quaid’s suit against Baxter alleges that it was the drug’s labeling and design which led to what the LA Times described as a “massive overdose,” noting that—in the suit—Baxter knew other babies had died from similar dosing errors but did not recall the “high-concentration vials.”  The Wall Street Journal added that while Baxter redesigned its Heparin packaging, it should have, but did not, recall the unused, higher dosage vials.  Baxter claims, said the Wall Street Journal, that the hospital is at fault.

In response to the medical error, the Quaid’s have launched a Website, entitled The Quaid Foundation, devoted to reducing such preventable medical errors:  The Foundation’s site notes that the error that caused the babies’ illness was a result of a variety of “human errors” that involved the drug manufacturer, the hospital pharmacy, the pediatric ward, and the administering nurse.  The Quaid’s noted that the nurse gave two, separate and massive heparin doses to the infants over an eight-hour period.  The Quaid’s also noted the heparin debacle that was linked to the death of three infants in Indianapolis.

In February 2007, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and Baxter International issued a two-page safety alert warning of the fatal dangers of mistaking high 10,000 unit and low 10 unit dose vials of Heparin. The memo advised hospitals to double-check their inventory to ensure dispensing errors did not occur. The 2007 alert was issued after three infants died in Indiana when they were mistakenly given adult doses.  In addition to the Quaid twins, at least six newborns and two other patients are known to have received an overdose of Heparin since 2001.

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