The world's largest generic drug manufacturer, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, is facing over 300 lawsuits resulting from a 2007 Hepatitis C outbreak. Plaintiffs allege that the company packaged the anesthetic propofol in a manner that contributed to the spread of the incurable liver disease.
The outbreak occurred when doctors at a Nevada endoscopy clinic used 50 milliliter vials of propofol to administer doses of the anesthetic to multiple patients. Although the vials were marked "single use only," it is alleged that the company knew the vials' large size would lead to multiple uses. Further, it is being argued that the company knew that multiple uses could lead to the vials becoming contaminated, even if doctors used a clean syringe each time.
The lawsuits allege that propofol's misleading packaging qualified it as a dangerous drug under products liability law. Further, they allege that Teva was negligent in failing to adequately warn doctors of the dangers of using a single vial to administer multiple doses.
Victims believe their case is buoyed by evidence showing that the company understood the dangers posed by its product years before the outbreak, yet did little to remedy the situation. They allege that evidence shows that in 2000, Teva asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for permission to sell the drug in a 10 milliliter vial because the size was closer to a single-patient dose and would reduce the temptation to give multiple patients injections from the same container.
However, Teva allegedly changed its outlook when it discovered that it could produce the 10 and 50 milliliter vials at the same speed. The company realized that if it switched its focus to the large size, it could generate five times more profit, it is alleged.
JURIES AWARDING SUBSTANTIAL VERDICTS
So far, the company has already settled nearly half the cases brought against it. This may be because the cases that have gone to trial have resulted in very large jury verdicts. In one case, a jury awarded a private-school principal who had been infected with Hepatitis C $5.1 million in compensatory damages and $500 million in punitive damages. In another case, a former air force pilot recovered a $104 million verdict, including $60 million in punitive damages against Teva.
Although jury verdicts vary greatly from case to case, these awards are in line with the substantial nature of Teva's negligence and the severity of the plaintiffs' injuries.
If you or a loved one has been harmed by a dangerous drug, contact an experienced product liability attorney who can help you protect your rights.