A New Jersey oncologist whom health officials suspect was responsible for a hepatitis B outbreak earlier this year has been sued by one of his patients.
Roland Jacobsen, of Manchester, claims he contracted the disease after being treated for prostate cancer at the offices of Dr. Parvez Dara, most recently in 2008 and 2009. Jacobsen filed a lawsuit against Dara in a state court in Ocean County last month.
Jacobsen’s attorney, Andrew McDonald, said Friday that his client was tested before Dara treated him and was not infected.
“He goes in for treatment and bam, there it is,” McDonald said. “It not only affects him, but his wife and everyone he’s surrounded by.”
The state warned nearly 3,000 of Dara’s patients in March to get tested after five cancer patients tested positive for hepatitis B, which is transmitted through exposure to infected blood and can cause serious liver damage.
The state health department has refused to say how many more patients tested positive after the warnings were sent out, citing the ongoing investigation.
Timothy White, a spokesman for Dara, said Friday that the doctor expects to be proven innocent of the allegations in Jacobsen’s lawsuit.
“There are a number of possible medical reasons that explain why hepatitis B may have developed among patients — particularly those being treated for cancer with chemotherapy,” White said. “To publicly link a medical practice to these occurrences before or during an ongoing investigation is irresponsible.”
Dara’s medical license was suspended in April, following a hearing in which state investigators presented evidence about the conditions at his Toms River office.
They said they found blood on the floor of a room where chemotherapy was administered, blood in a bin where blood vials were stored, open medication vials and unsterile saline and gauze.
Inspectors also cited problems with cross-contamination of pens, refrigerators and countertops; use of contaminated gloves; and misuse of antiseptics, among other health code violations.
Dara has a history of health code violations dating to 2002. Since then, he has paid nearly $56,000 in fines for infection control health code violations, court records show.
Dara has questioned whether his patients contracted the disease some other way, such as from a hospital or from surgery, and suggested some may have been latent carriers — meaning they had the virus but it was dormant — until they began receiving chemotherapy, which can suppress the body’s immune system.
A March 28 letter was sent to his patients warning them of the risk and suggesting they be tested for the liver diseases hepatitis B and hepatitis C and for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Originally from Pakistan, Dara had been practicing at his Toms River office for 23 years. He estimated that he would see between 45 and 60 patients a day, with about a dozen receiving chemotherapy each day.
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