Reports indicate that there are a number of plaintiffs filing lawsuits against Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) claiming that its shingles vaccine, Zostavax, is responsible for causing injury and even death. Already, plaintiffs in the state of Pennsylvania have filed suits in both state and federal courts alleging that the vaccine has serious side effects which the pharmaceutical giant failed to disclose.
Marc J. Bern & Partners, one of the law firms handling some of the lawsuits, indicated that it had a roster of clients whose complaints ranged from getting shingles from the vaccine, serious paralysis, brain damage, blindness and even death.
Proven safety record
In its defense, Merck said the efficacy and safety of its shingles vaccine was well demonstrated as it had been in the market for many years. Currently, Zostavax has received regulatory approval in more than 50 countries. Since its approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration over a decade ago, more than 36 million shots of the vaccine have been distributed by the pharmaceutical giant. Six years ago, Zostavax was allowed for use by adults aged between 50 and 59 years.
Shingles, which also goes by the name of herpes zoster, results when the chickenpox virus is reactivated causing the appearance of painful rashes and at times, blisters. While antiviral and pain relief drugs are used in the treatment, a shingles vaccine given when an adult or a chickenpox vaccine given during youth can reduce the likelihood of getting shingles. In the United States, there are an estimated 1 million cases that are reported every year. Those who are most at risk include anyone who has ever suffered from chickenpox since the virus that causes it stays in nerve cells in a dormant state for years.
In 2016, sales of Zostavax were approximately $749 million. Merck is expected to come under increasing competitive pressure as Shingrix, a shingles vaccine developed by GlaxoSmithKline plc (ADR) (NYSE:GSK), was recently granted approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Zostavax had previously enjoyed a monopoly status.
On Wednesday shares of Merck & Co Inc edged up by 0.78% to close the day at $64.70.