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According to allegations raised in a recently filed product liability lawsuit, side effects of the Zostavax shingles vaccine caused a California woman to develop a number of serious health complications, including vertigo, Polymyalgia Rheumatica, inflammatory myopathy and severe pain.
The complaint (PDF) was filed by Patrice Robins in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on December 26, indicating that Merck knew the shingles vaccine was defective and carried serious health risks, yet continued to market the injection without adequately warning consumers and the medical community.
Robins indicates that she received a Zostavax injection in May 2017, for the prevention of shingles. However, shortly after receiving the shingles vaccine, side effects allegedly caused Robins to develop intense vertigo, constant and severe joint and muscle pains in her knees, hips, shoulders, neck, upper back and left third finger. She was eventually diagnosed with polymyalgia rheumatic and inflammatory myopathy, which was allegedly caused by the live virus contained in the vaccine.
Zostavax is a live varicella zoster virus (VZV) vaccine, which was introduced by Merck in May 2006, as a single dose injection the prevention of shingles among older individuals. It is a more potent version of the Merck chickenpox vaccine, Varivax, but it has been linked to problems where it actually causes users to experience longer and more painful shingles outbreaks, as well as other infections associated with an “under-attenuated” version of the live virus, which was allegedly not weak enough to prevent reactivation of dormant virus in the body.
Robins’ case joins a growing number of similar Zostavax shingles vaccine lawsuits filed nationwide, each involving allegations that Merck failed to adequately inform patients and the medical community about the side effects of the shingles inoculation.
“The patient information sheet, as well as the label and prescribing information for Zostavax at all times relevant hereto, did not adequately, if at all, address the risk of viral infection,” the lawsuit states. “All that was addressed is the concern that a rash and itching might develop at the injection site. This is despite the fact that shingles was a noted occurrence during clinical trials of the vaccine.”
Given similar questions of fact and law presented in complaints filed throughout the federal court system, the Zostavax litigation has been centralized before U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation.
As part of the coordinated pretrial proceedings before Judge Bartle, it is expected that a small group of representative cases will be selected for early “bellwether” trials to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation over the Zostavax vaccine side effects.
It is ultimately expected that several thousand Zostavax cases will be brought by individuals nationwide who experienced problems after receiving the shingles vaccine.