TRAVERSE CITY — Jurors took less than three hours to decide Traverse City doctors who injected patients with a tainted steroid did not act negligently when they did so.
Jurors in 13th Circuit Court on Thursday ruled in a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of about 170 local Michiganders who received the injections from Neuromuscular & Rehabilitation Associates of Northern Michigan. Three representative patients had to undergo anti-fungal treatment and were hospitalized multiple times after they were injected with the steroid.
The drug came from the New England Compounding Center, a Massachusetts-based compounding pharmacy that sent the steroid compounds across the country in 2012. Tainted batches of the company's compounds caused an outbreak of fungal meningitis and other infections in at least 20 states that killed more than 60 people.
Tim Dardas, an attorney who represented the doctors, said this was the first case against physicians to go to trial that was related to the NECC steroid recall.
"(The physicians) did what was reasonable, they did what was appropriate, and they did what was in the best interest of their patients," Dardas said.
Robert Sickels, an attorney speaking on behalf of the patients, said during closing arguments the physicians at the practice were to blame for ordering the steroids in bulk from a compounding pharmacy, instead of an FDA-regulated manufacturer. He also said they should have informed their patients they were injecting a preservative-free medicine from a compounding pharmacy into their bodies.
"Had they bought from a manufacturer, none of this would have happened, none of it," Sickels said.
Compounding pharmacies are supposed to produce drugs based on individual prescriptions, not in bulk, he told jurors Thursday.
Sickels asked jurors to award three class representatives between $200,000 and $440,000 for pain and suffering and several thousand more dollars to pay back insurance companies for the patients' medical expenses.
Randy Juip, the attorney for the defendants, said the doctors used the medication for eight years without incident and reasonably relied on regulatory agencies to let them know if something was amiss.
"It would be impossible, impossible to practice medicine if the standard of care required that you investigate the background, investigate the regulatory history, and doubt the reliability of your suppliers,"Juip said.
The jury did not find that the three doctors — Richard Ball, James MacKenzie and Stephen Andriese — acted with negligence that caused injury to their patients.
<div style="display:none;"> <img src="//pixel.quantserve.com/pixel/p-eb6rW8CarLDWY.gif" border="0" height="1" width="1" alt="Quantcast"/> </div>