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Blood Substitutes Linked to Deaths

Safety Data Hidden From Public, Researchers Say
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

April 28, 2008 -- Patients treated with experimental blood substitutes were 30% more likely to die and more than twice as likely to have heart attacks as patients who did not get the blood substitute products, a pooled analysis of the research reveals.

Combined results from 13 published and three unpublished industry-sponsored trials showed the increase in risk for all the hemoglobin-based blood substitute products tested and for all populations studied, including trauma patients and those having heart, vascular, or elective surgery.

The study, conducted by researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, is scheduled for publication in the May 21 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

But the findings were made public online Monday, the day before a planned two-day FDA-sponsored workshop examining the safety of the blood substitutes.

NIH researcher Charles Natanson, MD, says the analysis makes it clear that the products are too dangerous for use in human clinical trials.

One of the blood substitutes, Biopure Corp.'s Hemopure, is approved for use in humans in South Africa. None is approved for human use in the U.S., but there are five ongoing clinical trials involving the blood substitutes, Natanson says.

"I don't believe this research should go forward in humans until these products have been reformulated and animal studies show them to be less toxic," he tells WebMD.

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