Schmaier added that alternative blood thinners are much more expensive and said medical professionals also lack experience using them. He said he has not seen any adverse reactions associated with the recent heparin scare, and said his hospital has taken precautions to remove the questionable products from its shelves.
The FDA is again facing questions about how to adequately safeguard the U.S. food and drug supply when so many products and ingredients come from abroad. Today's announcement about what is contaminating heparin comes one year after a recall of tainted pet food that also came from China.
Abundant and cheap melamine killed hundreds of U.S. pets when it was added into pet food gluten because it mimicked more costly gluten when tested by inspectors.
But Dr. Murray M. Lumpkin, deputy commissioner for the FDA's International and Special Programs, said a memoranda of agreement signed with China in December 2007 to improve food and drug safety has made this situation very different from the pet food crisis.
This time, cooperation between Chinese and U.S. officials enabled FDA inspectors to quickly get visas, enter China and work alongside their Chinese counterparts to investigate the issue, Lumpkin said.
"This is the kind of relationship that did not exist during the time of melamine about a year ago," Lumpkin said. "Heparin has become kind of an example of how the MOA [memoranda of agreement] actually works in a real-life situation."
Last week, the U.S. State Department gave the FDA the go-ahead to create eight permanent FDA positions in China. That plan is pending authorization from the Chinese government.