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
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.