A Sykesville woman who suffered liver damage after taking a drug has sued its manufacturer and the Baltimore testing laboratory that she claims fraudulently conspired to have the drug sold as a generic equivalent of the blood-pressure medicine her doctor prescribed.
Veleria Wilkins, 42, claims to have suffered permanent and disabling injuries after taking Triamterene/Hydrochlorothiazide manufactured by Bolar Pharmaceutical Co. of Copaigue, N.Y.
She is suing Bolar and Pharmakinetics Laboratories of Baltimore as well as Mark B. Perkal, a Pharmakinetics founder and former official.
Both companies, Perkal and other officials of the companies have been the subject of federal investigations and lawsuits related to an elaborate drug-switching scheme.
Wilkin's 11-count suit charges fraud, negligence, civil conspiracy and breach of warranty. It asks for $142 million in punitive damages for 10 of the counts -- the amount of money Bolar allegedly made on the sale of the drug -- and from $350,000 to $6 million per count in compensatory damages.
If awarded the total amount, an unlikely event, Wilkins would receive $60.3 million in compensatory damages and $1.42 billion in punitive damages.
Earlier this year, Bolar agreed to pay a $10 million fine to settle 20 criminal charges tied to corruption and fraud in its generic drug-making operation. Pharmakinetics and its former vice president pleaded guilty to obstructing a federal investigation and the company was fined $200,000.
In the suit filed Monday in Baltimore Circuit Court, Wilkins alleges that she took Triamterene/Hydrochlorothiazide for 30 days in 1989 and contracted hepatitis and other illnesses. She has been unable to work since, according to the suit.
Pharmakinetics allegedly performed testing on the drug that enabled it to be sold as a generic equivalent for Dyazide, a blood pressure drug made by SmithKline Beecham. But Bolar substituted Dyazide for its own drug in samples sent to the laboratory for testing, sometimes with Perkal and Pharmakinetic's knowledge, according to admissions in the related criminal cases.
"Who knows what they put into these drugs? All we know is they were not the bioequivalent of Dyazide," said Jerome J. Seidenman, an attorney for Wilkins with the firm of Seidenman & Sutherland in Baltimore.
Wilkin's case may be the first allegation of someone suffering injury from the drug-switching scheme, he said.
Officials for the two companies were unavailable for comment late yesterday.