Tainted Blood Products Found in Australia’s Hospitals

March 9, 2012 Updated: March 9, 2012

CSL, one of Australia’s biggest pharmaceutical companies, is under fire for staying quiet over the contamination of its blood products in hospitals around Australia.

The life-saving product–human albumin, which is utilized to treat trauma patients who have lost a lot of blood–was noted as being contaminated in January. However, company officials only notified the Federal authorities on Wednesday this week.

Low Levels of Contamination

According to the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC), Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Baggoley has declared that “CSL advised that the levels that they’ve detected of ethylene glycol are very low and therefore adverse clinical effects are unlikely to occur. But what they can’t tell us is which batches and the exact level of contamination.”

Professor Baggley then went on to explain that if someone were to suffer adverse clinical effects, it has two main effects. One is that it is an alcohol, therefore people can have symptoms like being drunk as they would with ordinary alcohol.

“So they can appear intoxicated, dizzy and lack coordination,” he said.

But it also gets transformed into an acid and that’s where it becomes the problem. Its toxic effects can increase heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing. It can also cause muscle spasms and the acid can have an effect on the kidneys.

Leaking Coolant

According to Professor Baggley, CSL is still trying to figure out what had happened. It is believed that ethylene glycol, a coolant utilized in the production process, leaked through a breach in one of the welds of a tank.

The problem was originally discovered in December of last year and all batches made between the middle of December 2011 and January 2012 were not released for clinical use.

On Monday, CSL’s in-house testing on previous batches of human albumin from 2011 also came back showing low levels of contamination and these results were then forwarded to the Commonwealth Department of Health on Wednesday afternoon.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is investigating the incident and CSL’s Human Albumin will be taken out of circulation.