Hepatitis C Damage Awards Against Teva, Baxter Continue to Pile Up

Teva Pharmaceuticals and Baxter International have been hit with a massive punitive damages award for a third time as a result of their role in causing a hepatitis C outbreak that occurred after two Las Vegas endoscopy clinics reused oversized vials of propofol sold by the drug makers. 

The companies were ordered to pay a combined total of $104 million to Michael Washington and his wife, Josephine, for selling the oversized vials, which plaintiffs say were prone to abuse and encouraged use on multiple patients due to their design.

State health officials shut down the Edoscopy Center of Southern Nevada and Desert Shadow Endoscopy Center in 2008 due to unsafe medical practices, after it was discovered that staff were re-using vials of propofol on multiple patients, exposing thousands of patients treated at the clinics to a risk of hepatits C, AIDS and other blood-bourne disease.

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Washington was diagnosed with hepatitis C in 2007 after being injected with propofol at one of the clinics involved in the outbreak.

According to allegations raised in multiple hepatitis C lawsuits filed against the drug makers, their marketing practices and the design of 50 mL vials of propofol, an anesthesia medication, encouraged use of the same vial with multiple patients.

The Nevada state court jury awarded the Washingtons $14 million in compensatory damages, and added $90 million in punitive damages; $60 million to be paid by Teva and $30 million to be paid by Baxter.

The verdict came just days after another Las Vegas jury ordered the drug makers to pay $182.6 million total to five other plaintiffs, $162.5 million of that verdict was punitive damages as well.

In May 2010, another jury awarded plaintiff Henry Chanin $5 million in compensatory damages, and then hit the Teva and Baxter with a $500 million in punitive damages.

Propofol is a short-acting anesthesia medication that is used for sedation during medical procedures, such as colonoscopy and endoscopy, as well as in dental surgery. It is marketed with the brand name Diprivan by AstraZeneca, and it is currently available as a generic from Teva Pharmaceuticals and other manufacturers.

Hepatitis C is an infectious disease that can cause liver damage, including liver failure, cirrhosis and liver cancer. It is technically incurable, but very effective treatment has been able to eradicate the disease in some of those who contract it.

More than 40,000 former patients were advised by the Southern Nevada Health District to get tested for potentially fatal blood-borne diseases like Hepatitis C or HIV following the Las Vegas outbreak. However, attempts to certify a hepatitis C class-action lawsuit on the basis of emotional distress on behalf of former patients of the clinic failed in 2008.

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