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Baxter International Hiding in Plain Sight

"Baxter's products aren't that sexy compared to J&J," says Julie Stralow, of the independent financial research firm Morningstar. "But because Baxter is diversified, if there's a problem [with one product], something else comes along to save the day."

Baxter is divided into three areas -- biosciences, medical delivery and kidney-disease care. The biosciences group, which accounted for 42% of the first-quarter's $2.9 billion in sales. includes the world's leading treatment for hemophilia as well as therapies for immune disorders and vaccines. Biosciences grew 13% in the first quarter to $1.2 billion.

Kidney dialysis produced sales of $558 million, up 6% from the year-ago quarter. It accounts for 19% of corporate revenue. Medication delivery sales -- syringes, pumps, intravenous products and anesthesia -- rose 8% to $1.1 billion.

Baxter isn't free from stress. Right now, it is dealing with chronic difficulties with an infusion pump that delivers medications and contaminated supplies of the anticoagulant heparin.

Baxter recalled some vials of injectable heparin in January and initiated a broader recall in February. The heparin was linked to "an unusual increase" in allergic reactions. Baxter receives the drug from its U.S. supplier, Scientific Protein Laboratories. This firm relies on China to provide the raw material, which is derived from pig intestines.

Previously, Baxter had been supplying 50% of U.S. heparin, but the company said May 21 that it "will not sell another vial of heparin until the company has helped to create a system in which the quality and safety of heparin is secured."

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