Drug manufacturer settles whistleblower claim about unsanitary condition at Charlotte-area plant

Drug manufacturer settles whistleblower claim about unsanitary condition at Charlotte-area plant
(Photo provided in federal filing)
(Photo provided in federal filing)

MARION, NC (WBTV) - A national pharmaceutical company with a factory in Marion, NC has agreed to settle a federal whistleblower complaint alleging the company knowingly sold bags of fluid IV drugs that had been exposed to mold.

The complaint was filed in 2015 but unsealed for the first time late Thursday afternoon as part of a settlement between the whistleblower, the United States Department of Justice, the departments of justice for a coalition of states including North Carolina and the company, Baxter Healthcare Corporation.

The whistleblower, Chris Wall, is a maintenance employee at the Marion plant who, according to the complaint, has worked at the facility since 1979.

Wall's attorneys said that the employee wanted to share his concerns about the mold because he was worried about all the people who may have received the IV drugs.

"I think the story was that he had a relative that was in the hospital and noticed that there was an IV bag dripping into their body from Baxter," said Tommy Odom, an attorney representing the whistleblower.

According to the complaint, the company failed to take steps to remediate mold that was growing in a "clean room", which is supposed to be a sterile facility where IV drugs are packaged and prepared for distribution across the country.

"A group of managers were being more than negligent. I think you could argue that a group of managers were seriously breaking the criminal law," said Tony Scheer, an attorney representing the whistleblower.

Wall's attorneys said the employee tried to bring his concerns about the mold to managers at the company, but no action was taken.

"Over 16 months there was millions and millions of bags were being manufactured in non-sterile conditions that were put in people's bodies," said Odom.

Baxter Healthcare Corporation will now pay 16 million in deferred prosecution, penalties and forfeiture according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice. They will also pay an additional  $2.158 million in a civil settlement with the federal government.

WBTV reached out to the company after business hours Thursday and has not yet received a statement from them regarding the settlement.

Wall is still an employee at Baxter Healthcare Corporation.

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