The family of a pregnant woman who died while taking experimental anti-HIV drugs to protect her baby from getting the disease is suing the doctors, drugmakers, and hospitals involved in the study for $10 million. Joyce Ann Hafford's mother and sister allege in the suit filed Tuesday that doctors continued to give Hafford the drug regimen despite signs of liver failure. The suit also claims doctors didn't warn the 33-year-old HIV-positive woman of the trial's dangers. "She trusted doctors to treat her, and they failed her," said Rubbie King, Hafford's sister.
A spokeswoman for Regional Medical Center in Memphis, Tenn., where Hafford was treated, said hospital policy prevented officials there from commenting on the suit.
Family members said they did not learn that the National Institutes of Health had concluded the drug therapy most likely caused Hafford's death until the Associated Press obtained copies of the case file this month. For the past year, family members believed Hafford died of AIDS complications. NIH officials quickly suspected the drug regimen because it included Viramune (nevirapine), an antiretroviral drug known to cause liver problems. Hafford's death in August 2003, less than 72 hours after her son Sterling was born prematurely, halted the federal government research program on nevirapine. The baby was born HIV-negative.
The family first filed a wrongful-death suit in June but withdrew it in September because lawyers felt they didn't have enough evidence. Among the defendants named in the suit are several doctors and nurses who treated Hafford, the Regional Medical Center, and drugmakers GlaxoSmithKline and Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals. (AP)