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Nearly 26 years ago, some hospitals thought they might have found a helpful intravenous vitamin E supplement to give to premature babies. That drug, called E-Ferol, was supposed to prevent blindness in infants, but was marketed to hospitals without the approval of the Food and Drug Administration. Federal officials finally recalled the drug after just five months on the market, as increasing numbers of premature babies given E-Ferol died of liver and kidney damaged.

Now a federal judge in Wichita Falls, Kansas finally approved a $110 million class action settlement last Friday against the manufacturer and distributor of E-Ferol, who was responsible for killing at least 38 babies in the mid-1980s. Furthermore, three executives at two companies that made and sold the drug were convicted of fraud, misbranding and selling an unapproved drug and were sentenced to six months in prison. Despite the settlement, the Fort Worth lawyer who was the lead counsel for the 369 plaintiffs’ suit said he believed many more than 38 babies died from E-Ferol-related complications.

Cynthia McDaniel was one of the mothers involved in the lawsuit. Her 13-day-old son Keegan died after he was injected with E-Ferol in January 1984. Nevertheless, she didn’t even realize that there was any connection with the drug and her son’s death until she received a letter in July of 2006 from lawyers involved with the class-action lawsuit. In fact, other families and the attorneys involved in the class action suit had a difficult time getting the 38 hospitals identified by the Centers for Disease Control to come clean about their use of E-Ferol in the 1980s and the effects on premature babies. While some of the 38 hospitals were willing to share information, others invoked the doctor-patient privilege to keep quiet about the unflattering history of E-Ferol at their facilities.

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