Hemophiliacs who claim they contracted the virus that causes AIDS from tainted blood-clotting products could get $100,000 each under a settlement offer approved by a federal judge Wednesday.
The $640 million settlement offer from four major drug companies would also cover survivors of hemophiliacs who died of AIDS, as well as family members and others who have contracted HIV from a person with hemophilia.
The deal involves only products sold between 1979 and 1985 - before the companies say reliable AIDS-killing treatments became available.
Hemophiliac groups contend the companies purposely failed to protect them by refusing to treat the products with heat that would kill the virus, and by manufacturing the products from blood taken from people at high risk for AIDS, such as drug abusers.
In the decade since the contamination became known, more than 4,500 hemophiliacs have died from AIDS. And both sides estimate the number of people eligible for the settlement at 5,000 to 6,000.
Although some advocates for hemophiliacs contend the offer is inadequate, U.S. District Judge John Grady said it “has sufficient earmarks of fairness.”
David Shrager, lead attorney for the hemophiliacs, said the settlement is probably the only way many of them can get compensation.
Most who have sued the drug companies in the past have lost their cases. Those who have won later had their victories overturned on appeal. Individual suits by about 800 people remain pending.
“The legal obstacles have been great,” Shrager said. “There have been problems of product identification and there is the statute of limitations. This is an offer that deserves consideration.”
The judge set a Nov. 25 hearing to hear from those affected by the settlement.
The four drug companies involved in the case are Germany’s Bayer AG; Baxter International Inc., of Deerfield, Ill.; the Armour Pharmaceuticals division of French-owned Rhone-Poulenc Rorer; and Alpha Therapeutic Corp., a division of Japan’s Green Cross Corp.
Terms of the settlement say $600 million will be distributed to victims, $40 million will pay for expenses and lawyers fees in the decade-long litigation.
Notices will be sent next week to those affected by the settlement.