CHICAGO, Aug. 14 -- A federal judge Wednesday approved settlement of a suit filed against four drug companies on behalf of hemophiliacs who used a blood clotting factor infected with HIV from 1978 through 1985. People with hemophalia who contracted the virus blamed for causing AIDS or their survivors could potentially receive $100,000 each under the agreement. Spouses, family members and other people who contracted HIV as a result of their relationship with an HIV-infected hemophiliac also may be eligible to share in the claims. Claims from the settlement potentially could reach $600 million and $40 million in legal fees, said a spokesman for lead attorney Robert Parks of Coral Gables, Fla. 'In light of the circumstances it's a fair settlement for the majority of people with claims,' Parks said in a statement. U.S. District Court Judge John F. Grady announced the preliminary settlement involving Alpha Therapeutic Corp., Armour Pharmaceutical Co., Baxter Healthcare Corp., and Bayer Corp., which processed and distributed blood factor concentrates used by patients to control bleeding. The clotting products were made from plasma from thousands of blood donors, some of whom were infected with HIV, before the companies instituted a heat-treatment process to destroy viruses. 'We are pleased with the court's decision to approve the settlement offer. The agreement represents an enormous amount of work and cooperation among all parties and will give significant support to members of the hemophilia community who have been affected by this tragedy,' the blood products manufacturers said in a statement.
Bayer holds nearly half the U.S. market for blood clotting factor, while Baxter and Armour, a unit of Rhone-Poulenc Rorer Inc., share about 40 percent. Alpha Therapeutic Corp. is a division of Green Cross Corp. of Japan. The Wall Street Journal said Baxter International, based in Deerfield, Ill., could pay as much as $128 million into the settlement fund to settle 366 lawsuits. A estimated 6,000 to 8,000 hemophiliacs contracted AIDS or HIV from infected clotting factor during the early 1980s. Many of the nearly 600 who filed lawsuits died. Judge Grady scheduled a fairness hearing on the settlement for Nov. 25.