Teva's second hep C lawsuit goes to trial

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries ($TEVA) is in court this week, fighting its second lawsuit claiming that anesthetic vials sold by the company caused patients to develop hepatitis C. The company faces about 300 similar suits, one-third of which have been settled. This is the second case to go to trial, Bloomberg reports.

Three Las Vegas patients claim that they were diagnosed with hepatitis C after they were given Teva's propofol from tainted vials. Their lawyer, Robert Eglet, told jurors that Teva sold large vials of the anesthetic, knowing that the packaging could promote the spread of blood-borne diseases. The suit also names distributors Baxter International and McKesson.

The three companies "made billions of dollars" off the drug, despite its risks to patient safety, Eglet said. The plaintiffs claim that the large vials--containing 50 ml--aren't designed as single-use packages. Teva should have warned doctors of the dangers of reusing the vials, the lawsuit claims.

In the first trial against Teva and Baxter, a jury awarded more than $500 million in damages. Teva has set aside an unspecified amount of money to cover expenses related to the hepatitis C litigation. The companies say healthcare providers, not the drug packaging, are to blame. "We are confident that if the jury gets to hear all of the evidence, they will correctly determine that the drug-product defendants were in no way responsible for the tragic hepatitis outbreak that occurred in Las Vegas," a Teva spokeswoman told Bloomberg.

- get the Bloomberg story