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Lawyers Look For Preemies Given Drug Linked To Deaths

POSTED: 8:03 am HST July 13, 2006
UPDATED: 9:49 am HST July 13, 2006

News Photo HONOLULU -- It's been more than two decades since the Federal Drug Administration pulled a drug linked to the deaths of 38 infants off the market. Now, a group of Texas lawyers say time is running out to sue the drug companies or hospitals involved.

Of the 38 infant deaths linked to the drug Eferol, four cases happened in Hawaii.

Twenty-three years ago, premature babies at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children were given injections of Eferol, a Vitamin E solution to prevent blindness. At the time, the FDA had not approved Eferol.

Babies began getting sick in the neo-natal intensive care units. Doctors there began contacting other hospitals to see if they had problems anywhere else. Kapiolani also contacted the FDA.

Kapiolani was one of the first hospitals to flag problems. The probe led to the conviction of several executives with the drug manufacturer and distributor since the drug had not been tested for intravenous use.

Texas lawyers are trying to get a class-action lawsuit together. They ran a legal ad in 25 states across the country.

"We think there's as many as 800 to 1,000 children that received the drug and we know that there's not that many claims resolved," Texas attorney Dwain Dent said.

The lawyers said that the FDA determined that 22 babies were given the drug in Hawaii.

Attorney Rick Fried represented families of four babies. The lawsuits were settled out of court.

Dr. David Easa was the Hawaii doctor who first called the drug company about his concerns. He told KITV that his best recollection was that the hospital did cooperate in the investigation and wasn't sued.

The children who received the drug would now be in their 20s.