Baxter in crisis mode over possible equipment flaws

DEERFIELD, IL: Medical products giant Baxter International

announced its own bad news last week, admitting that more than 50 deaths

might be linked to its devices.



"We have a responsibility to make public our findings immediately, even

though confirmatory studies remain underway," said CEO Harry Jansen

Kraemer in a release.



Baxter's corporate comms staff has been tackling the crisis since August

with the help of several foreign-language PR firms in Europe, said Sally

Benjamin Young, global communications VP for Baxter's renal business

line.



The first deaths linked to company's dialyzers were reported late this

summer in Spain. Since then, other patients died in Croatia, Taiwan,

Columbia, Germany, Italy, and the US. Independent tests in Europe

produced what Baxter called "irrefutable evidence supporting the safety

of Baxter's dialyzer." But the company recalled suspect devices as a

precaution. Further testing the first weekend of November identified as

a likely culprit the residue of a chemical it has been using since

December in a Ronneby, Sweden, factory.



Baxter notified the FDA before publicizing early findings last Monday,

when it issued a release along with letters to patients and customers,

and conducted briefings with reporters.



Baxter announced it had discontinued the affected product lines and shut

down the Swedish factory, as well as a facility in Florida that made

fibers used in the dialyzers. PR tactics also included notifying

competitors and the chemical's manufacturer, and urging testing

authorities to improve their methods, Young said.



From an IR perspective, Baxter's strategy has been to stress that it

will meet annual targets despite spending around $150 million to

cease production of the Swedish dialyzers.



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