Dennis Quaid, has filed a lawsuit against Baxter International Inc. This lawsuit has received a great deal of attention and likely will put the company under more intense scrutiny because of Quaid’s family being involved.

The lawsuit involves Quaid’s newborn twins, who were given an overdose of the Baxter-manufactured blood thinner heparin at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, and who suffered injury as a result.

The lawsuit alleges that Baxter, a maker of drugs and medication-delivery devices, was negligent because the company’s packaging design for heparin contributed to the hospital mix-up in the dosage given to the twins. Baxter produces vials of two different strengths, each with a blue background. One strength has a concentration of 10 units of heparin per milliliter, and the other has a concentration of 10,000 units per milliliter. The staff personnel at Cedars-Sinai made a “medical error” and administered the product that is 1,000 times as strong, according to allegations made in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit contends that Baxter was negligent because it knew that three infants died last year from similar heparin overdose related to packaging confusion, but had failed to recall the product. Baxter also failed to repackage the drug or to issue an urgent warning to hospitals that had purchased the product. The fact that Dennis Quaid, who starred in such films as “The Right Stuff” and “Breaking Away,” filed the lawsuit makes this more than just an ordinary case against the pharmaceutical industry.

All too often lawsuits are filed involving serious injury or deaths caused by a defective drug or product and the public never hears about it. That won’t be the case here.

Baxter has acknowledged that labeling is a potential issue. At a recent industry meeting in Las Vegas, Baxter highlighted a change in packaging that “provides additional safeguards” to help clinicians correctly identify critical medications. The drug manufacturer said heparin is the first medication offered with the enhanced label.

Interestingly, Baxter says the announcement at the conference that took place ahead of the suit was just “a coincidence,” and that the company launched such safeguards earlier this fall.

Quaid, his wife, Kimberly; and twins Zoe Grace and Thomas Boone, are plaintiffs in the lawsuit. The twins have recovered and the family’s goal is not to receive compensation, according to Susan Loggans, a Chicago lawyer, who is representing the family. She states that the Quaids are not seeking any money or damages but instead simply want to raise the awareness of medication errors in general.

It appears Baxter will attempt to shift blame in the Quaid case to the hospital. A spokesperson said the lawsuit was “about improper use of a product” and that the hospital, Cedars-Sinai, acknowledged it “was a preventable error, involving a failure to follow the hospital’s standard policies and procedures.”

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