Dennis Quaid Speaks Out on Heparin Overdose, Medical Mistakes

Accidental <"">Heparin overdoses are a real threat to patients, says actor Dennis Quaid, who nearly lost his children to a <"">medical mistake.  Late last year, the newborn twins of Dennis Quaid and Kimberly Buffington were given a massive, accidental overdose of the blood thinner, Heparin, at California’s Cedar-Sinai hospital.  The children were given vials of Heparin 1,000 times stronger than what should have been prescribed.  Quaid is now speaking out about medical mistakes and is scheduled for an interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes” this Sunday.  Quaid and his wife are suing the drug’s manufacturer, Baxter International Inc., for negligence in packaging different doses of Heparin in similar vials with blue backgrounds.  Baxter has said the product was safe but that a hospital staffer misread the label.  According to Quaid, “the nurse didn’t bother to look at the dosage on the bottle.”

Baxter’s Heparin comes in 10 unit vials for babies and vials up to 10,000 units for adults.  The twins were dosed from 10,000 unit vials with two separate over-dosages.  The babies began to bleed out just before midnight and were transferred to the neo-natal intensive care.  Pharmacy technicians stock Heparin for use in preventing clots and for flushing IVs.  Hospital protocol is to keep the different units separated, but a technician accidentally put the 10,000 unit vials in the drawer where the 10 unit vials were stored.

Quaid has said that as many as 100,000 Americans are killed in hospitals by medical mistakes.  “These mistakes that happened to us are not unique … they happen in every hospital, in every state in this country,” said Quaid who was speaking in his first TV interview regarding his twins’ overdose.  “It’s bigger than AIDS.  It’s bigger than breast cancer.  It’s bigger than automobile accidents and, yet, no one seems to really be aware of the problem.”  A 1999 report by the U.S. Institute of Medicine agreed stating, “Good people are working in bad systems that need to be made safer.”

In a statement last year, the Quaid’s said, “We were told by upper Cedars-Sinai administration that our children had received only one 10,000 unit dose of Heparin when in fact they had received two 10,000 unit doses over an eight-hour period that we now know of.  The hospital’s lack of candor has left us with the uneasy feeling that we may never know the whole story,”.  Hospital staff gave the Quaid’s two-week-old twins—Thomas Boone and Zoe Grace—1,000 times the recommended dose of the blood thinner heparin.  “It basically turned their blood to the consistency of water, where it had a complete inability to clot.  They were basically bleeding out at that point,” Quaid said.  Even worse, the hospital did not notify the Quaid’s that anything was wrong until the next day.  And, still worse, the Quaids believe someone at the hospital leaked information about the error to the news media.

Baxter International is at the epicenter of another Heparin storm in which 21 deaths and over 700 adverse reactions have been reported in the US.  It is suspected that a contaminated ingredient from an uninspected Chinese manufacturer might be responsible for those Baxter Heparin problems.

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