Aprotinin has been routinely used for 13 years with patients as they undergo coronary artery surgery, and is designed to reduce bleeding during surgery.
But a study earlier this year discovered the drug doubles the risk of the patient dying afterwards. In the study, 20 per cent of patients given aprotinin died, and their death was directly attributed to the drug. On that basis, it's reckoned the drug is killing around 50,000 heart patients every year, which means it may have been responsible for the deaths of up to 650,000 people over its years in use.
The study is only the most recent warning about the drug. Earlier studies had already confirmed it causes kidney poisoning as well as a range of other heart complications, including stroke and heart attack.
Last year regulators became increasingly worried about the drug when they discovered Bayer was sitting on research it had sponsored, and which it was not prepared to publish.
For Bayer, the drug is only being "temporarily suspended", and it plans to get it back on the market by the end of 2008 when new study findings are published.
Never say die, which is more than the patient might be able to say.
(Source: British Medical Journal, 2007; 353: 1015).