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Drugs & Devices > Heparin

Heparin is a highly-sulfated glycosaminoglycan. It is widely used as an injectable anticoagulant (blood thinner), preventing the formation of clots and extension of existing clots within the blood.  Pharmaceutical grade heparin is generally derived from mucosal tissues of certain slaughtered meat animals.

Heparin allows the body's natural clot lysis mechanisms to work normally to break down clots that have already formed. It can be used in the following conditions:

  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Acute coronary syndrome, e.g., myocardial infarction
  • Deep-vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism
  • Cardiopulmonary bypass for heart surgery


Heparin is of the oldest that’s being used clinically. Though it had been discovered in 1916, it entered to clinical trials only in 1935. It was originally isolated from canine liver cells. The discovery of this drug is attributed to the research activities of Jay McLean and William Henry Howell.

Adverse effects

The following are some of the side effects known to be associated with Heparin. (All people using this medicine may not experience these or any side effect.)

  • Bleeding
  • Sudden numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body;
  • Sudden headache, confusion, problems with vision, speech, or balance;
  • High blood potassium level (hyperkalaemia)
  • Decrease in the number of platelets in the blood (thrombocytopenia)
  • Breakdown of skin cells
  • Thinning of the bones (osteoporosis) with long term use
  • Hair loss (alopecia) may be experienced after prolonged use
  • Blood clots in the spinal cord (spinal haematoma) in people having spinal or epidural anaesthesia or lumbar puncture while receiving heparin
  • Trouble breathing; or
  • Chills, fever, runny nose, or watery eyes
  • Pain or swelling in one or both legs
Heparin Death – Family Sues Drugmakers
TX – The family of an east Texas man who died after taking blood thinner Heparin is suing the drug makers and the medical facility that administered the drug... Read More
Texas man wins $10 million in medical malpractice case
HOUSTON, TX – A Texas man was awarded $10 million in a medical malpractice case against Methodist Hospital and the doctors who treated him... Read More
Professor Granted $1.5 M to Develop Synthetic Heparin

A University of North Carolina professor has been granted $1.5 million to further develop a synthetic version of blood thinner drug heparin...

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Heparin Overdose Suspected Behind Baby Death in Texas Hospital
17 babies at a Texas hospital got elevated amounts of the blood thinner Heparin. One has died, though hospital officials said that it is unsure if the heparin contributed. It appears that nurses keeping IV lines clear used 10,000 units of heparin as opposed to 10, and the fault wasn’t caught until two days afterward... Read More
Heparin associated to 149 deaths
U.S. Food and Drug Administration this week said that at least 149 deaths have been connected to the blood thinner heparin, up from the previous estimate of 81... Read More
Heparin case to be heard in Toledo
A nationwide lawsuit concerned with the deaths of more than 100 people after being injected with tainted batches of heparin are to be heard in U.S. District Court in Toledo... Read More
Drug Information Heparin Update
We ask that health professionals and facilities please review and examine all drug/device storage areas, including emergency kits, dialysis units and automated drug storage cabinets to ensure that all of the recalled heparin products have been removed and are no longer available for patient use.    Read More
Heparin Is Now Suspected in 62 Fatalities Across U.S.
HEALTH / HEALTH CARE POLICY   | April 10, 2008

The number of suspicious deaths in the United States linked to the blood thinner heparin has risen to 62 from 19, with most of them reported this past December, January and February, according to the first detailed analyses of heparin fatalities by the Food and Drug Administration. Read More
Blood Thinner Might Be Tied to More Deaths
Published: February 29, 2008

Amid indications that more people may have died or been harmed after being given a brand of the blood thinner heparin, federal drug regulators said Thursday that they had found “potential deficiencies” at a Chinese plant that supplied much of the active ingredient for the drug. 
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Recall of Approximately 1,400 Units of Heparin Sodium Vial Products

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -- Valley Forge, PA -- March 20, 2008 --- American Health Packaging (AHP), a subsidiary of AmerisourceBergen Corporation (NYSE:ABC), today announced a voluntary recall of 1,421 units (25 vials per unit) of 10000 USP units/ml heparin sodium injection 1ml vials as part of the broader February 29, 2008 recall of Heparin products made by Baxter Healthcare Corporation. The vials were manufactured by Baxter and then placed by AHP into individually labeled bags for use in pharmacy automation equipment. The AHP packages where sold to five hospitals in Georgia and California, all of whom were notified of the recall earlier this month. Baxter Healthcare will reimburse AHP for the recalled product.

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Baxter Stops Production of Heparin
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