Glaxo Wellcome faces significant damages claim over xray dye
The 19 patients are seeking damages for their contraction of a rare inflammatory condition called adhesive arachnoiditis because of the alleged use of the company’s oil-based dye Myodil during a myelogram.
A myelogram is a spinal x-ray that involves using a special contrasting dye that is injected into the cerebrospinal fluid of the spinal canal to enable the spinal cord and nerve roots to be examined.
Adhesive arachnoiditis is a painful and debilitating condition that results from the long-term scarring of the arachnoid, one of the membranes that surrounds and protects the nerves of the spinal cord.
In some very severe cases it can cause paralysis, bladder and bowel dysfunction and impaired sexual function.
The group of patients argue Glaxo Australia continued using Myodil despite that it knew or should have known about the risks, which had been published in medical reports since 1956.
They also claim Glaxo failed to warn patients and healthcare professionals about the risks of using the dye.
Glaxo Wellcome Australia is now known as GlaxoSmithKline Australia. The company manufactures pharmaceuticals, antibiotics, surgical equipment and laboratory chemicals.
A spokeswoman for the company said it considers it acted responsibly at all times in regard to the supply of Myodil including appropriate testing and monitoring, and updates to product information.
Statutory time limit
NSW Supreme Court judge Peter Garling ruled on Friday that a hearing on whether some of the claimants were outside the statutory time limit to bring a claim should be held ahead of a full trial.
According to the judgment twelve of the claimants were based in NSW, four in Queensland, two in Tasmania and one in Western Australia and all undertook the procedure between 30 to 43 years ago and were diagnosed between 1976 and 2012.
Glaxo Australia argues that if the patients did contract adhesive arachnoiditis it could have resulted from using another oil-based contrast medium called Pantopaque, which it did not manufacture but was used in Australian hospitals and radiology practices at the time.
The company also claims it could be prejudiced because of the unavailability of medical records and evidence for many of the patients as well as the inability to join any other medical practitioners as cross-defendants.
It contends it does not owe the patients a duty or care and that it gave particular warnings on product information leaflets and at different points in time.
The company is paying for the plaintiffs’ evidence to be taken either in or close to their homes as many argue they are incapacitated and are not able to attend two hearings.
One patient has since died and the others are between 57 years to 86 years and largely confined to their homes.
Justice Garling said there were significant issues with respect to plaintiffs who received their diagnoses at a time well prior to the commencement of proceedings.