For two decades, a bitter controversy has taken place over a blood-clotting medicine that was blamed for infecting hemophiliacs with HIV in Asia and Latin America, while a newer, safer version was sold in the US and other Western nations. And now, after having lost a recent court battle, Taiwanese hemophiliacs have petitioned the US Supreme Court to hear their story.
Their lawsuit contends Bayer and a predecessor company illegally used paid plasma donors who were at high risk for transmitting blood-borne diseases - drug users, prisoners, and promiscuous urban gay males - to make Factor VIII, which can stop uncontrolled bleeding. But even after the company began using newer and safer heat-treated process, older inventory continued to be sold in Asia. The assumption was older meds could be sold in Asian countries where AIDS was not a "major issue" and that profits could be maintained, unless there was "hysteria over AIDS" (see this). The disclosures prompted an outcry several years ago (see lots of background here) and intensified what was already a nasty legal fight. However, the Taiwanese lost an effort to have their cases heard in California - rather than Taiwan, which the drugmakers contend is the appropriate forum - and that is why they are now petitioning the US Supreme Court (read the petition).
"Although the Taiwanese hemophiliacs’ contentions were amply documented, the Seventh Circuit upheld a lower court’s dismissal of their case on grounds that the evidence they had presented showing fraudulent concealment did not stop the expiration of statutes of limitations and that the claims were inconveniently filed in California instead of Taiwan," according to a statement from their attorneys.
Over the years, Bayer has denied all allegations that patients were deliberately exposed to HIV and blamed differing registration requirements in other countries for the delay in switching over to the new med. The drugmaker contended it acted responsibly, ethically and humanely at all times, and also contributed to compensation funds, while settling some lawsuits.