LAS VEGAS - (Mealey's) Three defendants in a Nevada state court propofol/hepatitis C infection case on Oct. 10 were ordered by a jury to pay the three plaintiffs $162.5 million in punitive damages (Richard C. Sacks v. Endoscopy Centers of Southern Nevada, et al., No. 08A572315, Nev. Dist., Clark Co.).
The jury in Clark County District Court assessed $89,375,000 in punitive damages against Teva Parenteral Medicines Inc., $55,250,000 against Baxter Healthcare Corp. and $17,875,000 against McKesson Corp.
Teva made the generic propofol injectable general anesthetic involved in the cases. Baxter was a former distributor and McKesson the most recent distributor, but Teva must indemnify the other two defendants.
On Oct. 6, the jury ordered the defendants to pay plaintiffs Anne and James Arnold, Anthony and Donna Devito and Richard C. Sacks $20.1 million in compensatory damages.
The plaintiffs were all infected with hepatitis C while undergoing colonoscopies at two Clark County clinics that were under common ownership. They allege that instead of making single-dose vials of propofol, Teva made 50-milliliter "jumbo" vials that encouraged health care personnel at the clinics to use the vials with multiple patients.
The plaintiffs allege that using one vial for multiple patients allowed hepatitis from one infected patient to get into the vial, contaminate it and pass the virus along to the next patients. After state authorities traced a hepatitis C outbreak to the clinics, 50,000 patients were notified and several thousand have sued the health care practitioners and the drug makers.
In a statement, Teva said the jury did not hear "all the facts in the case."
"We believe that if we had been able to present our full defense, this verdict and the following decision would have had a different outcome," the defendant said. "Teva should not be held liable for the blatant disregard for patient safety by medical professionals at their facility. While the mistreatment of patients is unacceptable, it was not Teva's fault."The company said it believes the plaintiffs' allegations are without merit and says it plans to appeal the verdicts.
[Editor's Note: Full coverage will be in the Oct. 20 issue of Mealey's Emerging Drugs & Devices. For all of your legal news needs, please visit www.lexisnexis.com/mealeys.]
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