Approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in 2006, the vaccine called Zostavax — made and marketed by Merck & Co. — was designed to be a vaccine against the shingles virus. However, since 2006, the medical evidence and reports suggest that use of Zostavax might be dangerous and has led to serious medical complications.
If you have been injured or suffered medical complications or if a loved one has died from complications caused by use of the Zostavax shingles vaccine, then you are entitled to sue for compensation for your injuries or for the wrongful death. Since 2006, over 36 Million Americans were injected with Zostavax, and there have been thousands of reports about complications following injection. Merck earned as much as $685 million on sales of the vaccine, but safety and effectiveness are in clear doubt.
In this article, we discuss some of the known complications from use of the Zostavax vaccine. In two companion articles, we will detail how personal injury cases work here in Georgia and discuss the status of Zostavax litigation around the country.
Georgia Dangerous Medications Litigators — Background on Shingles
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Shingles is a painful rash caused by a virus — varicella zoster — that usually causes a “band” of infected tissue on the torso, legs, face or other parts of the body. Often — although not always — the infected skin blisters, and these blisters are contagious at that stage. The virus — the same virus that causes chickenpox — tends to lie dormant after infection, being held in check by the body’s immune system. But, if the immune system is compromised — by stress, medication, bodily trauma or disease — then varicella zoster can become active resulting in the rash and/or other conditions. The risk of contracting shingles rises as you age. It is reported that one-third of Americans eventually get shingles, and by age 85, half of adults will have had at least one outbreak of shingles. See a related article in the New York Times here.
Many have heard about shingles since, famously, David Letterman contracted the condition back in early 2003. He was unable to host his late night television show for nearly a month. See here. Shingles is quite painful and, as Letterman said: “I had the shingles really bad, and part of the concoction of drugs they give you to fight that pain are pretty serious.” See here. Eventually, after he stopped taking the pain medications, Letterman ended up with serious bouts of depression and nervous anxiety. As Letterman’s experience shows, shingles is serious painful condition and not one to be taken lightly.
In addition to the painful rash, the shingles virus can cause other medical conditions. About one in five of those infected with the virus contract post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN) which is the most common complication of shingles. PHN is a feeling — or phantom — of pain, tingling, itching or burning where the shingles appeared but after the rash itself has healed. Shingles that develops near the eyes can create a risk of vision loss or lessening, optic nerve damage and glaucoma. Similarly, shingles that develops in the ear canal or on the ears can cause tinnitus, hearing loss, ear pain, vertigo and loss of balance caused by damage to the interior of the ears.
Other conditions and risks include:
- Cardiovascular damage leading to possible heart attack and or stroke
- Meningitis — nerve and/or tissue damage or inflammation to spinal cord
- Encephalitis — the same as meningitis, but to the brain
- Disseminated varicella — infection of internal organs such as the lungs and liver
- Increased risk of secondary bacterial infections and attendant complications
Background on Merck & Co.’s Zostavax
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Given the seriousness of shingles, pharmaceutical companies have engaged in the research to develop a vaccine for the virus. The process for creating vaccines is now very well-known and understood to medical science. In simple terms, a live version of the virus is mutated so that it is not dangerous to the body. That mutated version — the vaccine — is then injected into the body and it tricks the body into thinking there is an infection of the “real” virus. The body then produces antibodies which fight the infection and keep the body from succumbing to an outbreak of the “real” virus.
Zostavax was designed in just this manner. In the medical literature, it is called a “live attenuated vaccine.” In general, vaccines can be administered in one to several doses and can be placed under the skin or injected deeper into muscle tissue. Zostavax is administered in one dose and is placed under the skin. By comparison, a new vaccine — called Shingrix — is two-dose and is muscle-injected.
As noted, Zostavax was approved by the FDA in 2006 and was available on the market shortly thereafter. Almost immediately, patient complaints began. Since Zostavax is a weakened version of “live” varicella zoster virus, those with a weakened immune system ended up actually contracting shingles or experiencing the other serious complications associated with the virus. Zostavax was specifically approved for patients over the age of 50, but it was just this group of patients who were experiencing the complications.
Defective Drugs Attorneys — Contact the Roger Ghai Law Offices
If you have been injured or have suffered complications from use of Zostavax, call an experienced personal injury attorney like the ones at the Roger Ghai Law Offices. We can help you seek money damages to compensate you for your medical bills, pain and suffering. Proving liability and recovering damages in vaccine cases is complex and requires the most experienced and skilled lawyers to maximize your chances of success. We here at the Roger Ghai Law Offices are proven and have years of experience recovering compensation on behalf of clients who have been injured by defective products and medications.