Merck & Co. is facing a growing number of lawsuits involving Zostavax, a shingles vaccine that can sometimes cause shingles infections or complications like chronic nerve pain and death.
The most recent Zostavax lawsuit was filed by a group of 18 plaintiffs from nearly a dozen states who were infected with the live virus in Zostavax.
Zostavax has been sold in the U.S. since 2006, but it was not until August 2014 that Merck added “shingles” and “chickenpox” to the list of possible side effects of the vaccine.
Zostavax contains about 14-times more live virus than Merck’s chickenpox vaccine for children. In people with vulnerable immune systems, Zostavax can cause death.
The lawsuit states that 36 deaths and 1,111 serious injuries were reported to the FDA by September 2015. According to the complaint:
“Merck downplayed the serious and dangerous side effects of its product to encourage sales of the product; consequently, Merck placed its profits above its customers’ safety.”
People who develop shingles from the virus in Zostavax can suffer Post-Herpetic Neuralgia (PHN), an excruciatingly painful side effect involving permanent nerve damage in the skin. There is also a risk of other shingles complications like blindness, paralysis, or scarring from a skin rash.
Lawyers accuse Merck of downplaying the fact that Zostavax wears off in 5 years, citing data from the Centers for Disease control (CDC) showing “almost no remaining preventative effects after 7 years.” In the best scenario, Zostavax only prevents shingles in 51% of people.
The label also does not mention that Zostavax is even less effective if it is given too closely together with other common vaccines for adults.
The plaintiffs are from 11 states, including Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Other people have filed Zostavax lawsuits in Pennsylvania and Nevada.
The lawsuit was filed on July 11, 2017 in the Superior Court of New Jersey (Middlesex County) — In RE: Tammy Anderson et al v. Merck & Co Inc. et al — Case No. L-4177-17.