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Affordable Heparin

In the 1950’s, after 3 years of  biochemistry at UCLA, Nathan Wolfstein was introduced to two individuals who would expand the global interest in heparin, a biochemical that amazingly prevented blood from clotting in animals, humans, and laboratory specimens.  Dr. Hyman Engelberg, a practicing cardiologist in Beverly Hills CA. told Nathan that his heart attack patients given heparin daily for a prolonged time were doing significantly better than similar patients did when placed on other regimens.  Dr. John Gofman at Lawrence Laboratories in Berkeley CA. told him that after looking at thousands of blood samples of patients with lipedemia (thick fatty-white-tinged blood) he had found only 1 naturally occurring substance which consistently shifted (cleared blood to it’s normal thin-consistency red color) the  abnormal lipoprotein patterns toward normal every time. That blood-clearing substance was heparin – a biochemical contained in animal tissues.

The Wolfstein family was in the business of handling animal by-products for pharmaceutical purposes, mainly pancreas glands used for insulin production. Theorizing this was an initial advantage, Nathan Wolfstein decided his business would produce and market heparin. He soon found that the heparin solution produced by the largest supplier was a turbid brown color and that its use in humans resulted in some unpleasant and serious side effects, presumptively due to the ‘contaminating’  biochemicals inherent in the animal tissue source.    

Nathan was joined by Dr. Leon Freeman who was doing his PhD research on heparin.  Dr Freeman had developed the biochemical process that first produced the crude bulk heparin. He then, more importantly, developed the biochemical process that produced the first water-like clear white heparin for which he obtained a patent.  This clear heparin solution was free of most of the initial unpleasant side effects. Wolfstein and Freeman were able to purchase a large quantity of an existing inventory of heparin sodium USP from its owner which they went one to reprocess and market under the name of Darwin Laboratories.

Wolfstein and Freeman accomplished another major contribution by pioneering the production of heparin from porcine mucosa.To further expand production to meet the expanding clinical interest and growing demand stimulated by open heart surgery, Wolfstein and his shareholders sold the entire business to Rexall Drug and Chemical, and became a part of Riker Laboratories in Northridge CA  in 1960.

To increase heparin production and global supply availability, Nathan and Ralyn Wolfstein continued to be involved in making worldwide contacts to ensure necessary vital heparin sources would be available. From concept to completion what was done was absolutely vital to the creation of an abundant global supply of pure heparin at costs that are everywhere affordable, about the same as 40 years ago.