LONDON (AP) -- Danish and Italian authorities have begun recalling batches of potentially contaminated heparin, the European Medicines Agency said Tuesday.
''It's a precautionary measure right now,'' said Martin Harvey-Allchurch, an agency spokesman. He said there were no reports of any dangerous side effects in either Denmark or Italy to heparin. The recall was initiated by the Danish and Italian authorities; the source of any possible contamination wasn't immediately clear.
Heparin is a blood thinner derived from animal tissues. It is commonly used to prevent the formation of clots in patients with heart problems or during surgeries.
In the United States, Baxter International Inc. recalled nearly all its U.S.-sold heparin injections after some patients experienced extreme allergic reactions. The lots of heparin linked to hundreds of allergic reactions were marketed by Baxter International and produced in China. To date, at least 19 people have died.
Typical symptoms of the allergic reaction to heparin include low blood pressure, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Earlier this month, Germany recalled three batches of the drug after 80 dialysis patients were sickened. The contaminated drug was linked to a manufacturer in China.
Harvey-Allchurch said that European patients needing heparin should not be affected and that the drug's supply comes from different sources than in the U.S. ''Our advice is that patients should continue to use heparin as prescribed,'' he said.
While the European Medicines Agency licenses drugs across Europe, national authorities are responsible for inspecting drugs to make sure they are safe.
Since the heparin contamination problems began in the U.S., European officials have been liaising closely with their counterparts at the Food and Drug Administration. The agency is continuing to watch for any reports of adverse effects linked to the drug.