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Fresenius Medical Care is in the news again, but this time it is because of a disgruntled employee.

The kidney dialysis giant came under FDA scrutiny earlier this year when an internal company memo revealed that management was aware of serious heart risks related to their dialysis products, GranuFlo and NaturaLyte.

Now, a disgruntled employee allegedly poured bleach into the dialysis holding tanks over the weekend, planning revenge on the company for suspending him without pay. Fortunately, the company escaped a potential disaster by detecting the bleach before it could harm anyone.

Man Accused of Trying to Sabotage Dialysis Treatments

Donald Foster III was arrested August 1, 2012, and charged with attempted murder and second-degree burglary. Foster allegedly broke into a South Carolina Fresenius Medical Care dialysis clinic on July 7, 2012, and poured bleach into the water used in the machines. Lexington County Sheriff, James Metts, told reporters that patients could have died from exposure to bleach during dialysis treatments.

Fortunately, employees at the West Columbia clinic noticed the high level of chlorine in the water prior to using it on any patients. Even though the employees checked the water on Saturday afternoon and took no clients on Sunday, they went through the checks again Monday morning and found the contamination.

Sheriff Metts added that Foster knew exactly what he was doing, and intended to harm or kill kidney patients coming to the medical center for dialysis treatment. Metts added that the suspect likely intended to seek revenge against the company for his suspension, which was implemented because he provided prescription painkillers to patients.

Dialysis Products Linked with Heart Problems

Fresenius has received a lot of media attention over the past couple months because of the concerns with their dialysis products, GranuFlo and NaturaLyte. According to a November 2011 internal company memo, management was concerned about a potential link between these products and serious cardiovascular side effects, including sudden cardiac death.

Liquid and powder acid concentrates are used to help reduce acid buildup in the blood during kidney hemodialysis. GranuFlo and NaturaLyte, however, act somewhat differently than other similar concentrates. Doctors unaware of this difference may not adjust the dosage accordingly, which can lead to elevated levels of bicarbonate in the blood. High bicarbonate levels can lead to metabolic alkalosis, which is a pH imbalance in the body.

According to an May 2012 FDA warning, metabolic alkalosis is linked with heart rhythm problems, low blood pressure, low blood oxygen, and risk of sudden death. The November 2011 Fresenius Medical Care memo explained this concern to company doctors, but failed to alert outside clinics to the problem.

GranuFlo and NaturaLyte Recall

After answering questions from the FDA about the memo, Fresenius issued a second warning on March 29, 2012 to medical clinics and nursing homes. Between November and March, however, many patients may have been put at unnecessary risk of serious health problems.

On June 27, 2012, the FDA issued a Class I recall of both GranuFlo and NaturaLyte, noting that both products may cause serious adverse health consequences, including death.

It's unclear whether or not these measures have made doctors and technicians at Fresenius Medical Care more careful of what is going in and coming out of their dialysis machines. Either way, patients may feel reassured to know that employees at the South Carolina clinic foiled Foster’s plan before he could harm anyone.

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