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According to allegations raised in a recently filed product liability lawsuit, side effects of the Zostavax vaccine left a Texas man with a condition known as postherpetic neuralgia, which causes severe pain in the nerve fibers and the skin.
Stephen Arruda filed the complaint (PDF) in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on January 2, indicating Merck & Co. failed to warn about the risks associated with the shingles vaccine, which was not sufficiently weakened to avoid reactivation of a dormant virus in certain individuals.
Zostavax was introduced in 2006 as the first shingles vaccine, involving a single-dose injection that contains a live virus designed to vaccinate older adults against the development of the disease. However, the vaccine has largely been abandoned by the medical community after it was linked to a large number of reports involving severe complications, where it may have caused individuals experienced more persistent shingles outbreaks, as well as other infections and auto-immune disorders, shortly after exposure to Zostavax.
Arruda indicates that he was inoculated with Zostavax for the prevention of shingles in January 2018. A short time after the injection he was diagnosed with postherpetic neuralgia, which is a painful condition affecting the nerves and the skin which usually occurs following a bout of shingles. It occurs in about one out of every five shingles cases, and Arruda claims he experienced the condition due to the defective and unreasonably dangerous design of the Zostavax vaccine.
“A risk of using a live virus vaccine is that it is not weakened enough or ‘under-attenuated’,” the lawsuit states. “Under-attenuated live virus creates an increased risk of developing the disease the vaccine was to prevent.”
The complaint joins hundreds of other Zostavax lawsuits be pursued throughout the U.S. Court System, each raising similar allegations that individuals suffered painful and debilitating injuries that may have been avoided if the vaccine were not administered, or a different design had been used that did not feature a live-virus.
Given similar questions of fact and law raised in shingles vaccine lawsuits filed throughout the federal court system, the litigation has been centralized before U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.
As part of the coordinated litigation, Judge Bartle has scheduled a series of early “bellwether” trials, which are designed to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that may be repeated throughout the claims. However, if Merck fails to reach Zostavax settlements or another resolution for the litigation, each individual lawsuit may eventually be remanded back to different U.S. District courts nationwide for separate trial dates in the future.