Contest Entries

Systemwide Flaws Plagued Heparin Recall

Entrants: Evan George

Affiliation: Los Angeles Daily Journal

Small Newspapers (under 90,000 circ.)

Year: 2008

Place: Second Place

Provide a brief synopsis of the story or stories, including any significant findings.

After recall alerts about heparin began pouring in from across the country, pharmacists scoured medicine cabinets, whisked tainted heparin away from patients and sailed it back to their distributor for disposal. But a national drug supplier had not yet received the warning notices. That and other failures left the recalled drug on the shelf. In all, 94 hospitals have been fined by state regulators for failing to remove recalled heparin after warnings went out. A review of those state citations by the Daily Journal earlier this month showed that contaminated heparin, which federal officials have suspected in more than 90 deaths and traced to Chinese factories, continued to be administered to hundreds of patients at more than a dozen hospitals throughout California.

Judges' comments: The Heparin Recall stories were strong watchdog journalism. The stories came about after reporter Evan George filed a public records request with the state Board of Pharmacy to determine which local hospitals had been cited for failing to remove recalled heparin from their pharmacy shelves. George followed up on the most serious dangers to public health, including recalled heparin administered to newborns. The stories detailed the safety lapses and systemwide failures that allowed contaminated heparin to be administered to hundreds of patients.

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