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Hepatitis C Outbreak in Nevada
May 10, 2010

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and Baxter Healthcare Services have been hit with a $500 million punitive damage judgment in a lawsuit stemming from a hepatitis C outbreak linked to two Las Vegas, Nevada endoscopy clinics. The judgment was the largest jury award in the state's history.

The hepatitis C outbreak at the center of the lawsuit was traced to the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada and its sister clinic, Desert Shadow Endoscopy Center. The Southern Nevada Health District traced nine cases of hepatitis C directly to unsafe injection practices at the outpatient surgical centers, and said 100 others were possibly linked to them. At least 50,000 people were tested for blood-borne diseases because of the clinics' practices.

According to a Reuters report, plaintiff Henry Chanin claimed he contracted hepatitis C after vials of propofol were reused for his colonoscopy procedure at one of the clinics. Teva made the propofol, and Baxter distributed it, Reuters said. The lawsuit was the first of hundreds of civil lawsuits stemming from a hepatitis C outbreak two years ago.

According to The Las Vegas Review-Journal, Chanin's lawsuit had alleged the propofol packaging did not include appropriate warnings against reusing vials between patients. The complaint also argued that the 50-milliliter vials of propofol should not have been sold to endoscopy centers because they tempted nurses to reuse the vials instead of throwing away leftover drug.

On Friday, a Clark County District Court jury ordered Teva to pay $356 million and Baxter $144 million. Earlier, the same jury awarded Chanin $5.1 million in compensatory damages.

The doctors and nurses who performed Chanin's colonoscopy were also named in his lawsuit, but settled those claims earlier, the Review-Journal said.

Both Teva and Baxter say they plan to appeal the verdict.


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