These are the kinds of big numbers a drugmaker doesn't want to see. The Nevada jury that delivered a $20 million verdict against Teva Pharmaceutical Industries ($TEVA) and its co-defendants last week has now levied $162.5 million in punitive damages. That brings the total award to three patients to more than $163 million. And it comes on top of a previous $500 million-plus ruling in a similar case.
The damages stem from a hepatitis C outbreak centered on a Las Vegas clinic that used Teva's propofol drug to anesthetize patients during colonoscopies. The patients claim Teva's large vials of the drug encouraged reuse, causing the rash of infections. They say Teva--along with Baxter ($BAX), which marketed the drug for a time, and its distributor, McKesson ($MCK)--should be held liable for their illnesses.
So far, juries have agreed. The first case to go to trial ended in that $500 million punitive-damages award, and now there's the latest verdict. The plaintiffs' attorneys say they're hoping these large awards will inspire Teva to settle the rest of its propofol litigation; the company faces some 300 lawsuits over the Las Vegas outbreak. "It only took two atomic bombs to force the Japanese to surrender," attorney Will Kemp told Bloomberg.
The jury in the latest case divided the damages among the three companies, with $89.4 million for Teva, $55.2 million for Baxter and $17.9 million for McKesson. But Teva has indemnified the other companies against damages in the Nevada cases, so it's on the hook for all the eventual awards.
Teva spokeswoman Denise Bradley told the news service the company will appeal both of the jury's awards. The company has already appealed the verdicts in the earlier case. "We believe that the allegations against Teva are without merit," Bradley told Bloomberg.
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