Teva Pharmaceuticals has agreed to pay $250 million to settle about 80 Propofol lawsuits stemming from a hepatitis C outbreak at Las Vegas endoscopy clinics.
The Propofol hepatitis C settlement resolves all but 15 cases against the company, all of which include allegations that Teva intentionally sold Propofol in large vials that encouraged doctors to reuse them, exposing patients to a risk of infection from cross-contamination.
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.
The clinics only had limited insurance coverage and assets, so most of the lawsuits over the hepatits C outbreak have focused on Teva, alleging that the drug maker’s marketing practice and design of 50 mL vials of propofol, an anesthesia medication, encouraged use of the same vial with multiple patients.
Several propofol lawsuits against Teva have already resulted in huge verdicts, including punitive damages, such as $522 million in damages awarded in to one plaintiff in May 2010.
The settlement will bring the total number of resolved cases to about 120.
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.
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.