Drug Companies Liable for Hepatitis Outbreak
A Nevada jury has awarded $20.1 million in compensatory damages to victims of a 2008 Las Vegas hepatitis C outbreak which was reportedly caused by the re-use of oversized vials of the anesthetic drug Propofol.
Teva Parenteral Medicines Inc., Baxter Healthcare Corp. and McKesson Corp. were accused of wrongfully selling Propofol, a drug used to sedate patients during surgery, in vials large enough to be used on multiple patients. The lawsuits further allege that the drug companies intentionally sold Propofol in large-sized vials in an attempt to encourage doctors to re-use them, despite the risk of spreading blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis and HIV between patients.
About the Case
In 2008, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that 40,000 people who were treated at two Las Vegas Endoscopy Centers from 2004-2008 were at risk for hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV. Staff at the two clinics had reportedly re-used syringes and vials of Propofol on multiple occasions, putting patients at risk for contracting the blood-borne diseases. The Endoscopy Centers where the procedures were conducted were shut down that same year and the doctor who ran the centers currently faces state and federal criminal charges.
The drug makers argued that the infections were caused by the staff’s failure to follow appropriate standards of medical care; however, the jury found the drug companies liable for designing and marketing the over-sized vials in a way that encouraged multiple use of the same vial. The jury is now deliberating on the amount of punitive damages to be awarded in the case- plaintiff attorneys are said to be seeking $600 million.
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