DaVita Healthcare and Fresenius Medical Still Players despite Lawsuits

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St. Thomas, VITwo formidable health care enterprises, Fresenius Medical Care and DaVita Healthcare Clinics, have both been in the news the last few years for various reasons. At issue have been allegations of kickbacks to doctors at DaVita HealthCare Partners Inc., and GranuFlo side effects involving both.

But another commonality affecting the two enterprises is the interest expressed in both on behalf of hospital administrators at Schneider Regional Medical Center on the Island of St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands.

According to The Virgin Islands Daily News (St. Thomas 8/21/13), the hospital’s in-house dialysis unit had reached capacity and Schneider was reported to have identified DaVita HealthCare Clinics as a potential candidate for the provision of dialysis services at the facility. DaVita proved to eventually serve as the only candidate after the only other provider to submit a proposal for the private/public partnership backed out.

The report did not identify the company that withdrew. However, Fresenius Medical Care was highlighted in the report. One of the leading providers of dialysis in the US along with DaVita, Fresenius is facing a host of lawsuits alleging GranuFlo cardio arrest and NaturaLyte side effects following a Class 1 recall early last year of the products by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In addition to operating dialysis clinics, Fresenius also manufactures the NaturaLyte and GranuFlo products implicated in GranuFlo sudden death and other GranuFlo side effects cases.

It should be noted that Schneider Regional Medical Center, according to the report, continues to use the recalled GranuFlo - which was never actually removed from the market - but reportedly maintains safeguards to prevent GranuFlo cardiac arrest and other serious health events that have formed the foundation for several lawsuits elsewhere.

Fresenius Medical Care was at the center of a major controversy in early 2012, after it was found that the company sent a letter of caution to doctors and other health care professionals employed at Fresenius clinics, alerting them of potential problems with GranuFlo and NaturaLyte. However, the information was not communicated with non-Fresenius clinics until the communication was leaked to the FDA, which subsequently investigated.

DaVita HealthCare Partners Inc., meanwhile, has been facing allegations of kickbacks, and announced earlier this year, according to the Denver Post (5/10/13), that it had set aside funds to settle the allegations. However, DaVita recently scored a small victory after a judge dismissed a lawsuit brought against the company.

According to the Business Wire (5/2/13), DaVita had been facing a civil complaint brought against the company by plaintiff Laura Turner-Hooks. Earlier this year, on March 29, DaVita is reported to have filed a motion to dismiss the case on grounds that allegations made by the plaintiff were without merit. The US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan found for the defendant, without the need for payment of fines or without the finding of any wrongdoing on the part of DaVita HealthCare Partners Inc.

DaVita, however, continues to face GranuFlo sudden death lawsuits. Earlier this year, a plaintiff launched a GranuFlo cardiac arrest lawsuit against DaVita HealthCare Partners Inc. alleging his wife suffered a heart attack and died following use of GranuFlo at a DaVita dialysis center (case no. 1:2013cv00573, Colorado District Court).

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