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Home >  News >  October, 2011

Propofol Makers Liable in Hepatitis C Outbreak Lawsuit

Teva, Baxter, McKesson ordered to pay infected patients $183.6 million.

Published: October 11, 2011

A Nevada jury has awarded 3 patients who contracted hepatitis C through hazardous practices at Las Vegas-area GI clinics $183.6 million in their lawsuit against the companies that supplied the clinics' propofol.

Manufacturer Teva Parenteral Medicines and distributors Baxter Healthcare and McKesson Medical-Surgical owe a combined $162.5 million in punitive and $20.1 million in compensatory damages to plaintiff patients Anne Arnold, Richard Sacks, Tony Devito and 2 of their spouses. Their lawsuit had argued that the companies' packaging of propofol in 50mL and 100mL vials without single-use-only warnings encouraged the clinics' staffs to reuse the drugs on multiple patients, spreading the disease.

"I think that sends a very loud message," the patients' attorney, Robert Eglet, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "Hopefully that will be enough for the drug companies to realize they need to come to this community, and they need to make this right and resolve this case with everyone. But if not, we're prepared to take you on."

Teva issued a statement announcing its plans to appeal the verdict. "Teva should not be held liable for the blatant disregard for patient safety by medical professionals at their facility," it read. "While the mistreatment of patients is unacceptable, it was not Teva's fault."

The Oct. 10 verdict wasn't the first multi-million dollar decision in the continuing litigation over the 2008 hepatitis C outbreak, the clinics' alleged negligence and the sedative at the center of the case. Last year, in the first trial to emerge from the incidents, Mr. Eglet represented patient Henry Chanin and his wife, whose lawsuit resulted in a $500 million award. (According to the Review-Journal, Mr. Eglet's legal team offered to settle the 3 patients' lawsuit for $4.9 million and the Chanins' for $1.7 million.) Plus, the newspaper notes, the jury in another case involving the outbreak and the drug makers has awarded patient Michael Washington and his wife $14 million in compensatory damages, with the punitive amount to come.

It's not likely to be the end of the litigation, either. Many more product liability lawsuits against the drugmakers await a trial date, and Dipak Desai, MD, the former owner of the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada, the clinics from which the outbreak began, has been ruled competent to stand trial alongside 2 nurses in a criminal prosecution.

David Bernard

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