MDL Sought for Gardasil Lawsuits Over Problems from HPV Vaccine

Given common questions of fact and law raised in lawsuits over the Gardasil HPV vaccine pending throughout the federal court system, plaintiffs seek to consolidate the litigation in Arizona or Wisconsin District Courts.

With a growing number of Gardasil lawsuits being filed throughout the federal court system over problems experienced by teens and young adults after receiving the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine, a motion has been filed to consolidate the litigation before one U.S. District Judge for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.

Gardasil was first introduced in 2006, as a vaccine for prevention of HPV infections, which can be sexually transmitted and lead to the later development of cervical cancer.

Following years of marketing by the drug maker that suggested the vaccine was safe and effective, the injection has been widely recommended for young girls and boys before adolescence and potential sexual activity, since it was thought to carry few, if any, serious side effects.

In recent years, dozens of lawsuits have been brought against Merck, each raising similar allegations that side effects of the HPV vaccine caused autoimmune disorders, neurological side effects and other complications. Plaintiffs claim that Merck failed to adequately research the product before aggressively marketing it for use among children nationwide, and withheld important safety information from families and the medical community.

Given common questions of fact and law raised in the complaints, a group of plaintiffs filed a motion to transfer (PDF) with the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) on April 12, which calls for all federal Gardasil lawsuits over problems with the HPV vaccine to be centralized in either the District of Arizona or the Western District of Wisconsin.

The motion indicates there are at least 34 different lawsuits pending in 25 federal district courts nationwide, and lawyers indicate that number is likely to increase significantly in the coming weeks and months.

“As shown herein, the Gardasil lawsuits meet the statutory requirements for centralization, and on this record, centralization in one district court for pre-trial proceedings in the most appropriate course of action for the Panel to take,” the motion states. “Thus, centralization and coordination of pretrial proceedings against Merck is clearly warranted.”

Such consolidation is common in the federal court system in complex product liability lawsuits, where large numbers of cases are pending before different judges that involve similar injuries caused by the same product.

The U.S. JPML is expected to consider oral arguments on the motion, including any response filed by the drug maker, during a hearing this summer. The panel will then determine whether centralized management is appropriate at this early stage of the litigation, and the most appropriate forum for the pretrial proceedings.

Gardasil Side Effects

Since its introduction, concerns about Gardasil injection problems emerged after one of the lead researchers responsible for developing the HPV vaccine, Dr. Diane Harper, indicated that the drug’s protection may only last a few years, suggesting that the risks may outweigh the benefits.

Dr. Harper reportedly said at a conference in 2009, that while Gardasil was tested on 15 year old girls, it is commonly being given to girls as young as nine years old. She has called for more detailed warnings to parents about the Gardasil risks and to provide additional information about the unknown long-term benefits for girls who are not likely to be sexually active for several years.

Many health experts strongly support the use of Gardasil, indicating any risks are negligible and claims made by those concerned about vaccinations are often not scientifically supported.

The National Cancer Institute has heralded the HPV vaccine, saying that widespread use could reduce cervical cancer deaths worldwide by as much as two-thirds. Many also suggest men get the vaccine as well in order to promote “herd immunity,” which occurs when a large enough portion of the population is vaccinated against a particular disease that they act as a firewall, preventing that disease’s spread even to those who are not vaccinated.

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