A pharmaceutical company will face trial for the alleged supply of contaminated drip feeds which could be linked to the deaths of three babies.
ITH Pharma Ltd which supplied the specialist drip feeds for premature and vulnerable babies was charged after three babies died and around 20 others needed treatment at several hospitals.
It was reported in 2014 the first death occurred in Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, with the symptoms said to be similar to severe food poisoning.
A nine-day-old baby was pronounced dead at St Thomas’ a few days later.
Health chiefs had previously issued a public alert and said an outbreak of septicaemia at six hospital in England could have been caused by a batch of liquid food.
The Wembley-based firm is charged with seven counts of selling medicine “not of the nature or quality specified in the prescription”.
The firm also faces another allegation of “failing to take all reasonably practicable steps to ensure that patients were not infected by contaminants”.
Legal representatives of ITH Pharma appeared at Westminster Magistrates Court for a brief hearing this morning (MON), when a plea and trial preparation hearing was scheduled for January 14, 2019 at Southwark Crown Court.
Scotland Yard announced the charges on October 31 this year following a four year investigation before ITH Pharma released a statement which said it will “vigorously defend” itself.
All the offences fall under the Health and Safety at Work Act and are alleged to have happened between August 1, 2009 and June 1, 2014.
No pleas were entered at today’s hearing.
Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot said: “Having read the case summary, I’m of the view – the potential three deaths and obviously the details I have read – it should go to the crown court.”
She added: “The case of the crown and ITH Pharma Ltd will be heard next at Southwark Crown Court on January 14, 2019, or potentially another date, if in fact the parties agree they cannot be ready for an effective short hearing on that date.”
In a statement released when charges were brought the firm said: “As founders of ITH we have every sympathy for all the families affected, regardless of the cause.
“However, we are disappointed by the decision to charge the company and will vigorously defend this case.
“It would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage.
“Since 2008, ITH has manufactured more than 1.4-million components of total parenteral nutrition and is the sole commercial supplier of reactive feeding solutions to the NHS.
“This product has helped thousands of extremely vulnerable infants survive premature and complex births.
“ITH imposes rigorous environmental monitoring on its manufacturing process.
“The company has always had a strong relationship with the MHRA and continues to receive exemplary ratings for quality and safety.”
The company was represented at the hearing by Adrian Darbishire QC and Senghin Kong appeared for the Crown Prosecution Service.
By Lewis Pennock