Drug Industry Response

While there are many companies manufacturing both plasma-based and recombinant factor products today, four were the focus of the events chronicled in BAD BLOOD. They have changed hands through the years.

  • Armour Pharmaceuticals became ZLB Behring which is part of CSL Behring, the same company that acquired Behringwerke
  • In 2003 Grifols, a Spanish company, bought certain assets of Alpha Therapeutic Corporation which included the manufacturing facility for former Alpha products
  • Cutter Laboratories was purchased by Bayer AG in 1974
  • Hyland Baxter is a division of Baxter Healthcare

The filmmaker knew she needed to include the drug company perspective and in 2007 she found and interviewed David Castaldi, president of Hyland Baxter during the critical years 1977-1987, who had since left the plasma industry. In 2008 the filmmaker approached those companies with ties to the original factor manufacturers to request archival material, background material, and interviews for the film. The discussions with the companies were involved and extended over a period of many months.

The filmmaker had to requirements of the drug companies should an on-camera interview proceed:

  • The interview had to be someone who worked at the company at the time of the crisis with a first hand account of what happened. (No PR people.) This was in line with the stylistic approach of the film and the requirement set forth to all other interviews and potential interviews.
  • The interviewee could have an attorney present during the interview,could stop the interview at any time to consult with their attorney before answering a question, and could end the interview at any time during questioning. However, they needed to sign a release when the interview began that allowed us to use the interview as we saw fit and allowed them no right of review once the interview was finished, whether in whole or in part.

After many months, the drug companies declined our offer for an on-camera interview. However, the industry collectively asked us to interview Jan Bult, President of the Plasma Protein Therapeutics Association, an industry trade group. While he did not satisfy the first requirement of the filmmaker, in fact he was in the Netherlands at the time the crisis unfolded in the US and had no first hand knowledge of decisions made within the companies, the filmmaker still believed it was worth the time and expense to hear what Mr. Bult had to say. (The complete transcript of that interview is available here.)

The filmmaking team worked diligently to include Mr. Bult’s comments in the film.  However, without a first hand account it was difficult to include him in a film where first person narrative drove the story. We ultimately felt there were two key statements from Jan Bult’s interview that needed to be included and we did so via title cards and narration.

  • The first was the end card that states, “For nearly two decades, Factor medicines have been free of both HIV and hepatitis C.”
  • The second, included in narration, was the fact that industry removed viruses from Factor products and have imposed industry-wide safety standards that exceed FDA guidelines.

Since the film has been released we have heard from one industry executive that he would have sat for an interview but was not asked by his company to participate. In addition, Jan Bult has been invited to appear on post-screening Q&A panels with director, Marilyn Ness, to answer questions at community screenings of the film.