Propofol vial reuse linked to hep C outbreak

The reuse of single-use vials of the anesthetic propofol on patients at an endoscopy clinic in Nevada has led to felony charges of racketeering, negligence and insurance fraud against the clinic owner and two nurses. Contamination present during re-use of the vials led to a hepatitis C outbreak in the area in 2008.

A case stemming from the incident resulted in a $500-million jury award against propofol maker Teva and distributor Baxter in May for "breach of implied warranty and failure to warn.". Both drug industry giants are appealing. Teva says the drug's label "clearly states" that it is for single patient use only.

The Israeli generics maker, which recalled some of the drug in 2009 because of bacterial contamination in an unrelated incident, has since announced its exit from the propofol business. It says neither the court case nor the recall is a factor in that decision.

In the current case, a grand jury indicted clinic owner Dipak Desai late last week and he posted $1 million bail on Monday. He has surrendered his passport and license to practice medicine. He also has filed for bankruptcy protection.

Bail for Desai's co-defendants, Ronald Lakeman and Keith Mathahs, was set at $500,000 each. Prosecutors say the three told clinic employees to falsify patient anesthesia records and submit bogus information to insurance companies. 

Desai can look forward to "thousands of medical malpractice lawsuits" following the current litigation.

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