At first, Laboratorios Grífols developed intravenous solutions only to be able to conserve the blood that was stored in the blood bank, which was the main basis of its activities at the time.
The blood bank needed a steady supply of acid-citrate-dextrose solution to ensure the donated blood did not coagulate. Furthermore, that solution had to be guaranteed free of pyrogens: agents that can produce fever when injected into patients.
The double challenge
The challenge then was to not only manufacture acid-citrate-dextrose, but also develop the ability to prepare non-pyrogenic solutions in order to avoid potentially dangerous secondary effects on patients.
Ensuring solutions are non-pyrogenic effectively means making them totally sterile, and this is usually done by heat treating them under pressure. Now routine, such a method for sterilizing has not always been so straightforward.
The industrial production of the intravenous solutions used by Grifols was fairly primitive and used an autoclave bought from a dye factory to achieve the high temperatures and pressures required. But it was effective and reliable, and successfully produced glucosaline in May 1952.
A new business opportunity
Initially solutions such as glucosaline simply met Grifols' internal needs, but it became apparent that there was a burgeoning market for them as products in their own right, and manufacture was ramped up.
In early 1970s, the production was moved to the company's Parets del Vallès factory, and in 1987 several studies were carried out to change the storage of the solutions from traditional glass bottles to plastic bags.
And a new material
The move to plastic came about because the company foresaw that PVC bags would play an increasingly important role, an insight which was roundly vindicated. A range of challenges had to be overcome in order to ensure the safety and practicality of plastic bags first, however–not least difficulties in perfecting the filing process. This was overcome with a machine which was custom designed by Dr. Victor Grífols i Lucas.
Vital solutions: How secondary products took center stage