Massive Verdict for Re-Use of 50 ML Vials of Propofol Resulting in Hepatitis C Infection
A Las Vegas jury returned the first major verdict against Teva Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer of the anesthesia propofol, and distributor Baxter Healthcare for producing much larger vials of the drug than would be used for a short procedure, thereby creating a risk of re-use and potential spread of infection. The plaintiff in the lawsuit contracted Hepatitis C during a routine colonoscopy when the doctor used a 50-ml vial of the drug that had been used on another patient who had Hepatitis C.
The key in the litigation was that Teva was aware that 50-ml vials of the anesthesia propofol were too large for short surgical procedures. Teva documents that were part of a request for FDA approval of smaller vials indicated that the smaller doses (10-20 ml) were more appropriate for shorter procedures and would reduce the risk of infection from multiple uses. The FDA granted approval of the smaller vials presumably in part because of this justification from Teva. Despite obtaining FDA approval for the smaller vials, Teva increased production of the 50 ml vials because the manufacturing costs were less to produce one 50-ml vial than five 10-ml vials.
Teva's knowledge of the risk of the spread of infection associated with re-use of the vials of propofol and economic decision to focus on production of the larger vials to increase profits led the jury to award $500 million in punitive damages. Punitive damages are designed in part to discourage particularly egregious conduct and to punish such conduct. Evidence produced at trial indicated that the two companies that were defendants made $14 billion between them in the previous year, so $500 million amounted to only two weeks earnings for the companies.
Contracting an infectious disease like Hepatitis C or HIV can put a patient's life at risk and have life-long consequences for the victim. The plaintiff in the Los Vegas case was forced to undergo five months of grueling chemotherapy, to abstain from sex with his spouse to avoid infecting her and to face the risk of potential death or future re-occurrence of the disease. If you have contracted a serious infectious disease following a surgical procedure where the anesthesia propofol was used, you should contact Montlick and Associates for a free case evaluation.
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