Zostavax is a vaccine that is supposed to prevent shingles, but it contains a live virus that sometimes causes shingles — as well as devastating permanent complications like nerve pain or scarring.
The lawsuit claims Zostavax has been linked to 36 deaths and 1,111 serious adverse event reports to the FDA as of September 2015. Merck did not add “shingles” to the list of Zostavax side effects until August 2014.
The case was filed on July 11 in Middlesex County Superior Court, near Merck’s headquarters in New Jersey. 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.”
Lawyers also claim that Merck knew or should have known that Zostavax could cause viral infections — including shingles, the exact same disease the vaccine is intended to prevent — but Merck did not adequately warn consumers and healthcare providers of the risk.
Merck is also accused of failing to inform consumers that Zostavax loses effectiveness within 5 years. Lawyers cited data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showing that Zostavax has “almost no remaining preventative effects after 7 years.”
Furthermore, the label does not mention that Zostavax is even less likely to work if it is given too closely together with other common vaccines. In the best case scenario, Merck’s own studies show that Zostavax only prevents shingles in about 51% of vaccine recipients.
Zostavax contains about 14-times more live virus than Varivax, Merck’s chickenpox vaccine for children. The virus in Zostavax can cause deadly infections in people with vulnerable immune systems.
Some of the plaintiffs suffered devastating complications like Post-Herpetic Neuralgia (PHN), a type of nerve damage that causes chronic pain. Other victims had scarring from a shingles skin rash, blindness, paralysis, or brain damage.
The 18 plaintiffs in the lawsuit are from Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Zostavax lawsuits have also been filed in other states, including one in Pennsylvania federal court and another case in Nevada.
The case was filed 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.