Jury selection in a Nevada courtroom began yesterday in the case of Henry Chanin, who is suing Teva Parenteral Medicines and Baxter Healthcare after contracting hepatitis C from a contaminated vial of the anesthetic propofol during a routine procedure. The fight began more than two years ago after local health officials announced a hepatitis C outbreak linked to Las Vegas endoscopy clinics. Investigators said the outbreak was caused by nurse anesthetists who were reusing single-dose vials of anesthetic between patients at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada and its sister clinics.
Chanin and his wife allege the companies made and sold propofol bottles that contained five times the amount of drug needed for short procedures such as colonoscopies, leading clinic workers to reuse the vials, spreading disease. Only about 10 milliliters of propofol is required for short medical procedures such as colonoscopies, which take about 15 minutes. Teva used to sell the 10 milliliter vials of the milky liquid, but it stopped making the small vials because it was cheaper to make 50 milliliter vials, a lawyer for the Chanins said. The clinic doctor and nurses named in the lawsuit settled last month, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.
Thousands of lawsuits were filed in the wake of the largest hepatitis C scare in U.S. history, with about 300 people claiming to have contracted the disease at one of the clinics linked to the outbreak, the Las Vegas Sun reports. Many of the lawsuits have been settled.
A lawyer for the plaintiffs alleged Teva was aware of the potential danger, having logged 148 previous hepatitis C infections blamed on reuse of single-use vials of propofol. "They knew it was a problem. They knew there was multidosing with these vials."
Teva maintains its labels and packages warned against reusing vials of propofol among multiple patients, said Denise Bradley, senior director of North America Corporate Communications for Teva Pharmaceuticals. "If plaintiffs' counsel are correct as to what happened, it is unfortunate, but not in any way a result of Teva's conduct or its propofol product," Bradley says in an e-mail, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.