Baxter Healthcare (Deerfield, Illinois) and the American National Red Cross (Washington) reported that they have signed a new, long-term plasma procurement contract. Under this new agreement, Baxter will purchase plasma from the Red Cross, effective July 1. Based upon a strategic review of its Plasma Services business, the Red Cross informed Baxter that it intended to exit the plasma therapeutics business. As a result, the parties agreed to terminate their long-standing, contract manufacturing arrangement for the processing of plasma products.

"This new agreement permits Baxter to continue to utilize its existing capacity for plasma processing and enhances our manufacturing flexibility and efficiency," said Joy Amundson, president of Baxter's BioScience business. "Our goal is also to ensure there is no interruption of supply in the marketplace and we intend to offer our products and leading patient support and service programs to the patients and customers who today rely on Red Cross branded plasma therapies."

Based on the prior arrangement with the Red Cross, Baxter had dedicated capacity at its fractionation facility in Los Angeles for the processing of Red Cross plasma products. Baxter said it does not expect any material change to its level of plasma production as a result of the new plasma procurement agreement.

Baxter expects the financial impact from the new arrangement to be immaterial in 2005 and expects an increase in annual revenues of antibody therapy and other plasma protein products of about $100 million in 2006 due to the change from the Red Cross contract manufacturing arrangement to direct sales of plasma products. Other financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Infection risk efforts intensified

Lumetra (San Francisco) reported progress in surgical infection prevention in the wake of a recent Archives of Surgery study highlighting the need for more consistent practices to address infections. Lumetra said it will intensify its work with local hospitals to redesign procedures and protocols so that surgical patients are given antibiotics within 60 minutes before surgery begins, the timeframe most effective for preventing infections.

In the study, researchers found that only a little more than half of Medicare beneficiaries undergoing major surgery received antibiotics in the optimal timeframe. They analyzed medical records from 2,965 acute-care hospitals throughout the U.S., involving a random sample of 34,133 Medicare inpatients undergoing major surgeries during 2001 – including open cardiac, vascular, colorectal, total hip, total knee, and hysterectomy. Data was collected in conjunction with the 2002 launch of a surgical infection prevention project jointly sponsored by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (Baltimore) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Atlanta).

"Lumetra recognizes the importance of this research and, seeing the opportunity for significant improvement, already has efforts under way to address the problem of surgical infection prevention," said CEO Jo Ellen Hylind Ross.

As part of Medicare's Hospital Quality Initiative, quality improvement organizations such as Lumetra promote rapid resolution of hospital quality issues and sharing of "best practices" to assist hospitals in improving their quality of care in several areas, including surgical infection prevention, heart attack, heart failure and pneumonia.