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Las Vegas, Nevada—three pharmaceutical companies were ordered to pay a total of $162 million in punitive damages after a jury found the companies negligent of distributing large dose vials of the powerful anesthetic propofol to several Las Vegas clinics, resulting in the spread of Hepatitis C to patients. The damages are in addition to $20.1 million in compensatory damages that the companies were also ordered to pay to five plaintiffs affected by the large dose vials.

Plaintiff’s attorneys accused the drug companies, Teva Parenteral Inc., Baxter Healthcare Corporation, and McKesson Corporation, of putting corporate profits before patient safety. Specifically, they accused the companies of distributing 50 milliliter vials of propofol, rather than the normal 10-20 milliliter doses commonly used for outpatient colonoscopy procedures. Nevertheless, the companies maintain that the vials were properly marked with instructions and warnings.

The current civil trials are the first of several reaching the trial phase stemming from a 2008 Hepatitis C outbreak that occurred at colonoscopy clinics in Southern Nevada. Health officials advised about 50,000 patients to get tested for Hepatitis C after they received endoscopy procedures at the affected clinics. Overall, at least nine and up to 114 patients were infected. Thus far, Teva has promised an appeal, arguing that doctors are responsible for blatantly ignoring the product handling instructions and for allegedly using dirty syringes.

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