Olympus to pay Virginia Mason $6.6M for role in superbug outbreak: 7 things to know

Jurors on Monday ordered Olympus to pay Seattle-based Virginia Mason Medical Center $6.6 million in damages related to a superbug outbreak that began in 2012. The hospital was ordered to pay $1 million to a deceased patient's family, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Here are seven things to know.

1. The decision marks the end of an eight-week trial in which three executives from Olympus invoked the Fifth Amendment during a deposition. While the company was hit with financial penalties, the manufacturer did get a key win in the trial as the jury rejected claims that Olympus' duodenoscopes were unsafe by design and that the hospital played a role in facilitating the outbreak.

2. By early 2013, Olympus was already facing superbug outbreaks in three nations linked to their duodenoscopes. At least 35 patients in American hospitals have died from infections related to Olympus duodenoscopes since 2013, according to the LA Times.

3. The Virginia Mason outbreak involved the pathogen carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, which can be difficult treat because of its high level of antibiotic resistance.

4. Olympus argued Virginia Mason was at fault for not informing patients and their families about scope-related infections, leaving them to find out from a newspaper account about the outbreak, according to the LA Times.

5. However, the jury found Olympus did not provide adequate warnings about potential safety issues related to the scopes and proper instructions for use. The devicemaker advised U.S. executives against issuing warnings to hospitals about potentially contaminated scopes.

6. In January 2016, Olympus issued a voluntary recall of its TJF-Q180V duodenoscope, asking organizations to return the scope for revision. This was the same model of scope used to treat Richard Bigler, the deceased Virginia Mason pancreatic cancer patient whose wife, Theresa Bigler, and their four children initiated the lawsuit against Olympus. Virginia Mason later joined the suit.

7. More than 25 patients and families from across the U.S. have filed lawsuits against Olympus, alleging wrongful death, negligence or fraud. Additionally, federal prosecutors are investigating the devicemaker.

To read the full report in the LA Times, click here.

Note: This article was updated to accurately reflect the facts of the court decision. Virginia Mason was ordered to pay $1 million to to the patient's family, not Olympus. 

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