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HIV-INFECTED HEMOPHILIACS WIN SETTLEMENT

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Hundreds of HIV-infected hemophiliacs in Idaho and neighboring states could be affected by the $160 million settlement of a lawsuit alleging that two large medical suppliers sold blood-clotting products tainted with the AIDS virus, an Idaho attorney in the case says.

Baxter International Inc. and Rhone-Poulenc Rorer Inc. agreed to the settlement in U.S. District Court in Chicago on Tuesday. Three other defendants - Miles Inc., Alpha Therapeutic Corp. and the National Hemophilia Foundation - did not participate in the proposed settlement.Robert Huntley of Boise, a former Idaho Supreme Court justice, represents clients from Idaho, Utah, Washington and Oregon in the case. He said 11 Idaho victims have been identified, and there could be many more.

"I've estimated there will be up to 400 or 500 in the four states that I represent," Huntley said.

David Shrager, the plaintiffs' lead attorney, said up to 6,000 U.S. citizens or permanent residents may have been infected with HIV through blood-clotting products the defendants continued selling or promoting even after they should have known the products were tainted.

The proposed settlement still needs court approval; no date was immediately set for the court to consider it.

"We intend to press litigation vigorously against the non-settling defendants," Shrager said.

Under the proposed settlement, Baxter of Deerfield, Ill., and French-owned Rhone-Poulenc Rorer of Collegeville, Pa., would pay a combined $140 million to $160 million into a fund for U.S. citizens or residents with hemophilia and HIV who used the clotting agents. Funds could also go their families or survivors.

Huntley said the national steering committee handling the lawsuit now would seek court certification to pursue a class action against Miles and Alpha. A certification of the class involved also is needed for distribution of the settlement with Baxter and Rhone-Poulenc Rorer.

Both companies agreed to Tuesday's settlement without acknowledging fault.