December 13, 2012

Lawsuits pile up in meningitis case, but recovery appears dim

Though the compounding pharmacy has closed its doors, others may be liable.

The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

Kaye O'Brien, Dennis O'Brien
click image to enlarge

Dennis O’Brien contracted fungal meningitis after receiving a series of steroid injections in his neck His wife, Kaye O’Brien, says “we are not ever going to get over this.” The couple estimates they’ve spent thousands in out-of-pocket expenses.

2012 file photo/The Associated Press

Founded in 2006 by Cadden and Conigliaro, Ameridose would eventually report annual revenue of $100 million. An NECC spokesman didn't respond to a request for the pharmacy's revenue.

While Federal Drug Administration regulators have also found contamination issues at Westborough, Mass.-based Ameridose, the FDA has said it has not connected Ameridose drugs to infection or illness.

Under tort law, a lawsuit has to prove a defendant has a potential liability, which in this case could be anyone involved in the medical procedure. However, any such suit could take years and ultimately may not be successful. "I would not be surprised if doctors, hospitals, people that actually injected the drugs, the people that bought the drugs from the compounding company, many of those people will also be sued," said Fitzpatrick.

Plaintiffs' attorneys said they're considering that option but want more information on the relationships between the compounding pharmacy and the hundreds of hospitals and clinics that received its products.

Day, the attorney in Tennessee, said the clinics and doctors that purchase their drugs from compounding pharmacies or manufacturers could be held liable for negligence because they are in a better position to determine the safety of the medicine than the patients.

"Did they use due care in determining from whom to buy these drugs?" Day said.

SOURCES OF RECOVERY

Terry Dawes, a Michigan attorney who has filed at least 10 federal lawsuits in the case, said in traditional product liability cases, a pharmaceutical distributor could be liable. "We are looking at any conceivable sources of recovery for our clients including pharmaceutical supply places that may have dealt with this company in the past," he said.

Ten years ago, seven fungal meningitis illnesses and deaths were linked to injectable steroid from a South Carolina compounding pharmacy. That resulted in fewer than a dozen lawsuits.

Two companies that insured the South Carolina pharmacy and its operators tried unsuccessfully to deny payouts. An appellate court ruled against their argument that the pharmacy willfully violated state regulations by making multiple vials of the drug without specific prescriptions, but the opinion was unpublished and doesn't set a precedent for the current litigation.

The lawsuits represent a way for patients and their families to recover expenses, but also to hold the pharmacy and others accountable for the incalculable emotional and physical toll of the disease.

The shots are a common treatment for back and neck pain . A binder of snapshots shows what life is like in the O'Briens' rural Fentress County, Tenn., home: Dennis hooked up to an IV, Dennis in a stupor, bruises on his body from injections and blood tests. He's had three spinal taps. His 11-day stay in the hospital cost over $100,000, which was covered by health insurance.

His wife said she sometimes quietly checks at night to see whether her husband of 35 years is still breathing. "In my mind, I thought we were going to fight this and get over it. But we are not ever going to get over it," said Kaye O'Brien.

 

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors




Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)