$500 Million In Punitive Damages Awarded Against Teva, Baxter In Propofol Infection Case

$500 Million In Punitive Damages Awarded Against Teva, Baxter In Propofol Infection Case

LAS VEGAS — (Mealey’s) A Nevada state court jury on May 7 awarded $500 million in punitive damages in a propofol/hepatitis C infection case, two days after it awarded $5.35 million in compensatory damages, according to the parties (Henry Chanin, et al. v. Baxter Healthcare Corporation, et al., No. 08A571172, Nev. Dist., Clark Co.).

The jury in the Clark County District Court awarded plaintiff Henry Chanin and his wife, Loraine Chanin, punitive damages against defendants Baxter Healthcare Corp. and Teva Parenteral Medicines.  The jury said Teva was liable for $356 in punitive damages and Baxter for $144 million.

In 2006, Chanin was given propofol, a general anesthetic made by Teva and distributed by Baxter, during a colonoscopy.  A month later, Chanin was diagnosed with hepatitis C.

The Chanins sued the endoscopy clinic, the health care practitioners and the drug manufacturers.  The health care defendants settled before trial.

The Chanins alleged that Teva stopped making 10 milliliter single-use vials of propofol and instead switched to only 50-milliliter single-use vials.  They said that only 10 milliliters of propofol are needed for the average colonoscopy and that by putting five times the needed amount in a “single use” vial, Teva encouraged health care practitioners to use propofol left over in the so-called “jumbo” vials for multiple patients, a practice that causes contamination.

The plaintiffs said the defendants should have been on notice of a problem when they knew of 148 reports of infection associated with jumbo vials.

Teva and Baxter argued that the 50-milliliter vial was plainly labeled for single use only.

In statement on Friday, Teva said it continues to believe that the evidence shows it acted responsibly and that the jury was not allowed to hear evidence that the propofol was “blatantly misused” by the clinic.  In press statements, Teva and Baxter said the health care practitioners in Chanin’s case not only reused the propofol vial among several patients but reused a syringe to withdraw the drug from the vial and inject it into intravenous lines of several patients, causing the cross-contamination.

Teva and Baxter said they believe there are numerous grounds for appeal.

[Editor's Note:  Full coverage will be in the May 20 issue of Mealey’s Emerging Drugs & Devices.  For all of your legal news needs, please visit www.lexisnexis.com/mealeys.]

For more information, call editor Tom Moylan at 610-205-1120, or e-mail him at tom.moylan@lexisnexis.com.