Pay up for flawed drug, Rwandan court tells Abacus Pharma

Saturday June 25 2016

A Rwandan court has ordered Abacus Pharma to

A Rwandan court has ordered Abacus Pharma to pay five victims Rwf33 million for a flawed drug administered to them PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA 

By MOSES GAHIGI

The Nyarugenge intermediate court has ordered Abacus Pharma Ltd, a local pharmacy, to pay the victims of the flawed drug administered at Kigali-based La Croix du Sud Hospital in compensation and damages, Rwanda Today has learnt.

Several complaints had been raised by caretakers, who claimed the patients’ condition grew worse after undergoing minor surgery at the hospital.

The aggrieved victims, who complained of numbness and increased palpitations, had filed a case at the Nyarugenge intermediate court demanding compensation of over Rwf1 billion in damages and reimbursement of medical expenses.

However, the court asked the pharmacy to pay Rwf33 million to the five victims who filed the suit.

The victims had filed a collective suit against the hospital, where they were injected with lidocaine. The court summoned Abacus Pharmacy, which had supplied the hospital with the drug to be part of the case.

The hospital lawyers asked the court to bring in the pharmacy, saying it was implicit in this case since it supplied the said drug.

The lawyers argued that the hospital would be in the wrong if the problem was the way the drug was administered, but in this case, it was the drug lidocaine.

“There was no error in the administration of the drug, the problem was the drug lidocaine,” said one of the hospital’s lawyers.

In defence, the Abacus Pharma lawyer said pinning the consequences entirely on the drug is wrong, because other factors such as the equipment used in administering the drug and the environment come into play. In such a case, he added, concluding that it is lidocaine which caused the damages is premature.

However, his account was not admissible enough to sway the court, which ruled in favour of the plaintiffs and hospital.

“The hospital argued that all laboratories confirmed that the drug had no required standards of manufacturing, therefore, the victims did not have problems due to errors, omissions, or negligence of the hospital, so the drug importer was liable,” said the plaintiff’s lawyer, Hilary Gumisiriza.

Sonarwa had been dragged into the case, being the hospital insurer, however the contract with La Croix de Sud hospital only covers accidents, errors and negligence — not giving faulty medicine.

However the plaintiffs were not happy with the ruling especially due to the fact that the figure the victims came up with as compensation and damages was dramatically slashed from close to Rwf1 billion to Rwf33 million, for the five victims who filed the suit. Their lawyer said the court did not give any reason why the figure was slashed to such an extent.

“There wasn’t any substantial ground for the court to award such a negligible figure, they just said it was too much, the judge didn’t even give any reason. They said it was too much, but court never justified how the too little was reached, the higher court will tell us more about this,” said Mr Gumisiriza.

The victims are planning to appeal the ruling to high court.

The fear of the unknown is still looming. Much as the wounds have healed, the aggrieved victims still complain of numbness and increased palpitations, with fears that the defective drug could cause complications in the short or long term.

“We are appealing, we are not satisfied with the case, all we know is that at La Croix de Sud hospital we were injected with a dangerous drug which caused us severe side effects, all we want is to be adequately compensated,” said Deus Rugigana, the head of the plaintiffs.

Efforts to get a comment from La Croix de Sud hospital were futile by press time, but information reaching us is that the ruling has give the embattled hospital a sigh of relief after bouts of bad publicity coming from this case.