Quality consultants, clinic, drugmaker sued in outbreak

CORRECTION -- 05/03/08 -- A story in Friday’s edition of Review-Journal incorrectly identified Dr. Ikram Khan as a member of the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners. Khan served as the governor’s adviser on health care issues before resigning in March.

Two hepatitis C patients linked by health officials to the growing disease outbreak filed lawsuits Thursday against the medical clinic blamed for the infections, a company that inspected the clinic and the makers of the anesthesia used during medical procedures.

Bonnie Brunson and Stacy Hutchison are two of the eight hepatitis C cases that the Southern Nevada Health District has connected to unsafe injection practices at the Endoscopy Center of Southern Nevada, 700 Shadow Lane.

The lawsuits, which are the first to use a model complaint agreed upon by lawyers representing infected patients, claim Quality Care Consultants was negligent in failing to detect the unsafe practices during its inspection of the clinic.

The company is owned by Drs. Javaid Anwar and Ikram Khan, both prominent doctors and current members of the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners. Both doctors have ties to the clinic's majority owner, Dr. Dipak Desai, and have recused themselves from the board for any matters involving doctors at the endoscopy center.

The clinic hired Quality Care Consultants to review its policies and procedures and make recommendations to meet national standards, but did not detect the substandard injection practices, according to the lawsuit.

"They gave them the Good Housekeeping seal of approval, and off they went," said lawyer Will Kemp, who represents Brunson.

The lawsuits also name drug companies SICOR Inc., Baxter Healthcare Corp. and McKesson Corp. for their manufacture and sale of large vials of Propofol, the anesthesia used by the clinic.

Health investigators have linked the hepatitis C infections to vials of the drug, which were used for multiple patients despite being labeled for single use.

The companies have known since the early 1990s that the larger vials increased the risk of spreading disease, said lawyer Gerald Gillock, who represents Hutchison.

In a 2001 Food and Drug Administration document rejecting SICOR's request to sell larger vials of the medication, according to the lawsuit, the document stated that larger vials "could make multi-dosing much more tempting and, hence, more likely."

The typical endoscopic procedure requires just a fraction of the anesthesia in the vials, Kemp said.

Contact reporter Brian Haynes at bhaynes@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0281.