Lawyer: Teva, Baxter Could Have Prevented Hep C Outbreaks by Selling Smaller Propofol Vials

Hepatitis C outbreaks could have been avoided if drug manufacturers Baxter Healthcare Services and Teva Parenteral Medicine had sold smaller vials of propofol to healthcare facilities, argued a patient's lawyer during the opening statements of the third civil trial over the disease outbreaks, according to a Las Vegas Review Journal report.

Michael Washington's lawyer argued that Teva and Baxter knew that physicians and nurses would be tempted to re-use 50-milliliter vials of propofol, but did nothing to remove that temptation by stopping sales of the vials to outpatient clinics. Mr. Washington and his wife sued the companies under state product liability law, alleging that Teva and Baxter should have known the larger vials would be reused inappropriately in endoscopy clinics. These clinics typically use less than 20 milliliters of propofol for procedures.

Local health officials said the hepatitis C outbreak was caused by nurse anesthetists reusing propofol vials after they had become contaminated by syringes. Dipak Desai, MD, and two nurse anesthetists have been charged with multiple felonies stemming from the outbreak. Lawyers for the drug manufacturers told jurors on Monday that Dr. Desai and his staff — not the companies — were responsible for the outbreak.

Mr. Washington's lawyer argued that the misuse of vials in Dr. Desai's clinic was likely happening in similar clinics because of the financial incentive to re-use "single patient use" 50-milliliter vials.

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