Jury levies $20M verdict against Teva in propofol case

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries ($TEVA) failed to persuade a Nevada jury its propofol drug wasn't responsible for a 2008 hepatitis C outbreak. The panel found Teva liable in the case, along with co-defendants Baxter International ($BAX) and McKesson ($MCK), and awarded three plaintiffs a total of $20.1 million in compensatory damages. Punitive damages are up for consideration today.

The jury's ruling followed 7 weeks of testimony in the second trial to arise from the 2008 outbreak. The plaintiffs argued vials of propofol were too large and encouraged repeated use in more than one patient. They also claimed Teva, Baxter and McKesson should never have allowed the oversized vials to be distributed.

"Responsible drug companies should not put profits above patient safety," plaintiffs' lawyer Robert Eglet said in closing arguments. "It's undisputed that these larger vials provided the temptation and the opportunity" for reuse, he said (as quoted by Bloomberg). Eglet and his fellow plaintiffs' attorney have said they will ask for $600 million in total damages in this case.

The first jury to hear evidence about the hep C outbreak delivered a $505.1 million verdict against the companies, including $500 million in punitive damages. That award touched off a fight between Baxter and Teva, which had agreed to foot the bill for damages arising from the hep C litigation, but then claimed the agreement didn't cover punitive awards. Baxter sued and ultimately prevailed, so Teva is now on the hook for all of the damages.

For its part, Teva says it will appeal the latest verdict. The company has maintained that the vials are safe when used properly. "There were multiple failures to follow proper medical procedures," attorney Mark Tully said in court. "We believe that the allegations against Teva are without merit and we plan to appeal this decision," Teva spokeswoman Denise Bradley told the news service. The company faces some 300 lawsuits over the outbreak.

- read the Bloomberg story