Bayer Admits It Paid "Millions" in HIV Infection Cases -- Just Not in English

Last Updated Jan 28, 2011 5:47 PM EST

To read the English-speaking media, you'd never know that Bayer (BAYRY) just paid "tens of millions" of dollars to end a three-decade long scandal in which the company sold HIV-contaminated blood products to haemophiliacs, thousands of whom later died of AIDS.

Ironically, Bayer's new haemophilia iPhone app got some coverage, as did Bayer's haemophilia research grant to the University of Florida. But you have to pick through the French and Italian news media to find out that Bayer is finally writing checks to people who got AIDS because, in the 1980s, the Cutter Biological unit of Bayer ignored federal law to recruit prisoners, intravenous drug users, and high-risk gay men as donors of the blood Cutter then used to make Factor VIII and IX, the clotting product that haemophiliacs need in order to not bleed to death. Agence France Press reported (via a Google translation):
The German group Bayer and three other labs will pay tens of millions of euros to hemophiliacs who accused them of having sold in the 1980s blood products contaminated with HIV, a source close to the deal told AFP.
The figure of tens of millions of euros in compensation "is not totally wrong," she added. Bayer and the U.S. company Baxter are the two main parties to the agreement, she said.
A company spokesperson said:
However, "the company accepts no responsibility" in this case, and "continues to insist it has always acted responsibly and ethically."
The Italian media contained a similar report. A source who has followed the issue closely told BNET the actual payment was $50 million. That source added:
The reason why there have been no reports is that the hemophiliacs and their lawyers were not allowed to talk about the settlement.
I haven't seen ANY newspaper from the U.S. reporting on the issue (not even the haemophilia community published a statement) which I think is strange -- I mean, $50 million is not nothing. And this is the largest settlement on the HIV/hemophilia issue for more than 10 years (as far as I know), and two U.S. law firms negotiated it.
In 1997 Bayer paid €300 million into a compensation fund for haemophiliacs with HIV. About 20,000 patients contracted HIV from the blood. You can read more detail on the new settlement here. Bayer's 2010 annual report is scheduled for Feb. 28. It will be interesting to see if Bayer puts any details on the settlement in that disclosure.
Related: Image by Flickr user Michael W. Schultz, CC.