Inhaler lawsuit settled for $150m

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) A drugmaker agreed yesterday to pay up to $150 million to settle suits claiming bacterial contamination of its asthma drug albuterol killed as many as 14 people and sickened 100.

The tentative settlement with Copley Pharmaceutical Inc. halted a 42-day-old trial on the 79 consolidated lawsuits, which had been filed from around the country.

Albuterol, widely used by asthmatics and others with breathing disorders, is often taken through aerosol inhalers. It is made by a number of generic drug companies including Copley.

The Massachusetts-based company recalled some of its albuterol in 1993, saying several lots were contaminated by bacteria. Last year the company recalled all of its stock, nearly 4 million vials, but said the action was merely a precaution because contamination was limited to about 118,000 vials and the bacteria was relatively harmless.

A Massachusetts grand jury is investigating whether to bring criminal charges against the company over the problems with albuterol and the antihistamine brompheril.

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