Baxter was one of the many pharmaceutical companies, which produced heparin till 2008. It was later found out to have a contamination and the company stopped its supply to the market. Later it changed the drug composition to make it viable in the market. Heparin has been commonly used for thinning of blood. It is being used for years in United States as an anticoagulant or a blood thinner. It was being used widely in surgical or other medical processes.

Baxter doctors routinely monitored heparin. In 2008 they found allergic-type reactions in the United States associated with heparin increased unusually. Baxter voluntarily recalled heparin from market and manufacturing of heparin vials was suspended. They also sought for an investigation in this matter. The medicine was found to be contaminated by over-sulfated chondroitin sulfate (OSCS). It was difficult to detect with standard quality tests. This lead to recall by other heparin-manufacturing companies as well.

Heparin is formed by anionic mucopolysaccharides, also known as glycosaminoglycans, that exist in a straight chain heterogeneous group. It has blood-thinning properties and prevents blood clotting. The main sugars present in heparin are:

(a) α-L-iduronic acid 2-sulfate,

(b) 2-deoxy-2-sulfamino-α-D-glucose 6- sulfate,

(c) β-D-glucuronic acid,

(d) 2-acetamido-2-deoxy-a-D-glucose and

(e) α-L-iduronic acid.

All these sugars occurs in decreasing amounts in the order (2) > (1) > (4) > (3) > (5) and are bonded with glycosidic linkages. It forms polymers of various sizes. It is a highly acidic compound due to presence of covalently linked sulfate and carboxylic acid groups. Sodium ions partially replace acidic protons of the sulfate units in heparin sodium.

Structure of Heparin Sodium (representative subunits):

Heparin sodium injection is a disinfected heparin sodium solution. It is extracted from pig insulin. It is obtained from porcine intestinal mucosa, which is standardized for anticoagulant activity, in water for injection.

Units of heparin activity per milligram determine the potency of heparin. Heparin is used as an anticoagulant or blood thinner. It treats and prevents blood clots in the veins, arteries, or lung. Heparin is also used to reduce the risk of blood clots before surgery.

Uses of Heparin

Heparin is an anticoagulant. It is used for thinning of blood. It is used for different medical cases to prevent blood clotting.

It is given to bed ridden patients, who are confined to bed for long periods. It is used to prevent clotting of blood during the period when the patient is bed ridden, to prevent deep venous thrombosis, which can lead to strokes.

It is also used to treat pulmonary embolisms. They are migratory blood clots, which move from heart or venous system to lungs. They can hinder blood flow and block lungs causing difficulty in breathing. This state can be dangerous.

It is also used to check the enlargement of blood clots.

Doctors administer heparin to reduce risk of blood clotting during heart or artery surgery.

It is also used to treat strokes caused by blood clots.

Heparin doses are decided after Partial Thromboplastine Time (PTT) test. It is injected into vein or under the skin. The doctor decides doses according to patient’s condition and PTT.