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Inquiry into 23 dialysis deaths

ZAGREB, Croatia -- Croatian hospitals have been barred from using certain dialysis machines after 23 patients receiving treatment on them died within 48 hours.

The government has ordered hospitals to stop putting patients on the dialysis machines made by a U.S. company, Deerfield-Ill.-based Baxter International Inc.. The death rate has halted since the switch on Saturday, prime minister Ivica Racan said, The Associated Press reported.

The move was made after it was found that all the patients who died had received treatment from the dialyzers.

The state prosecutor and interior ministry are investigating.

Racan said the investigation so far "led to the suspicion that the filters made by Baxter could have caused these tragic events."

Baxter representatives who arrived in Croatia on Sunday refused to talk to reporters.

A Baxter spokeswoman in Deerfield said she had no information about the case but would investigate.

Racan turned down an offer by his health minister to resign and called for an investigation "to find out, urgently, how it could happen and whether there was any way to prevent this tragedy."

The usual death rate for dialysis patients in Croatia is three to six per week, health minister Ana Stavljenic Rukavina said.

About 2,700 patients receive dialysis in Croatian hospitals each year. A dialyzer is a membrane device that filters waste substances from the blood before it is returned to kidney failure patients.


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