Merck’s Zostavax Sales Plummet, Injury Lawsuits Mount


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Zostavax Negative Sales

Zostavax is bringing pain for both users and its maker, according to recent reports. The shingle vaccine’s sales are dropping as manufacturer Merck begins to face a rash of Zostavax injury lawsuits.

In the first quarter of 2018, Merck reported Zostavax made $65 million. The figure is 58 percent less than it made in the first quarter of 2017.

The number of Zostavax prescriptions also fell by 80 percent in the first quarter of 2018.

The decline in sales continued into the second quarter of 2018. Zostavax’s sales sank to $44 million.

Merck blamed the sales drop on a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation. The CDC endorsed Shingrix over Zostavax in 2017. GlaxoSmithKline makes Shingrix. It is a newer shingles vaccine.

“The company anticipates that future sales of Zostavax will continue to be unfavorably affected by this competition,” Merck said in its 2018 second quarter report.

Meanwhile, a growing tide of Zostavax lawsuits claim the vaccine causes side effects. Side effect claims include shingles, brain damage and death, among other serious ailments.

One of the firms involved in litigation has over 5,000 clients.

Because of the growing number of claims, a federal panel consolidated the majority of cases into multidistrict litigation (Zostavax MDL 2848) in Pennsylvania, according to an Aug. 2, 2018 order.

The Pennsylvania multidistrict litigation does not affect hundreds of lawsuits in state court in California or New Jersey.

Injured by the Zostavax shingles vaccine? Get a Free Case Review

Lawsuits Allege Zostavax Causes Shingles, Other Side Effects

Eighteen people from across the country filed one of the first Zostavax lawsuits in New Jersey. They filed the lawsuit a few months before the CDC recommended Shingrix over Zostavax.

The lawsuit alleges the vaccine caused people to develop shingles. The outbreak led to hospitalization and chronic nerve pain called post-herpetic neuralgia.

“Merck knew or should have known that its product caused viral infection and was therefore not safe,” the suit said.

Jane Boda filed one of the early lawsuits in Wisconsin in May 2018. The lawsuit claims Zostavax gave Boda shingles. She says she suffered chronic nerve damage as a result.

Boda said Merck did not warn her of the risk of shingles.

Despite lawsuits, Merck stands by its vaccine.

“The company has continuously provided appropriate and timely information about Zostavax to consumers and to the medical, scientific and regulatory communities,” Merck told FiercePharma.

Michelle Llamas, Senior Content Writer
Written By Michelle Llamas Senior Writer

Michelle Llamas has been writing articles and producing podcasts about drugs, medical devices and the FDA for seven years. She specializes in fluoroquinolone antibiotics, vaccines and products that affect women’s health such as Essure birth control, transvaginal mesh and talcum powder. Michelle collaborates with experts, including board-certified doctors, patients and advocates, to provide trusted health information to the public. Some of her qualifications include:

  • American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) Engage Committee and Membership Committee member
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Health Literacy certificates
  • Original works published or cited in The Lancet, British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology and the Journal for Palliative Medicine
Edited By

7 Cited Research Articles

  1. Merck. (2018, July 27). Merck Announces Second-Quarter 2018 Financial Results. Retrieved from
  2. In Re: Zostavax (Zoster Vaccine Live) Products Liability Litigation. (2018, August 2). Transfer Order. Retrieved from
  3. Harris Martin. (2018, April 23). Merck Asks Federal Panel to Transfer, Consolidate Zostavax Shingles Vaccine Lawsuits. Retrieved from
  4. Merck. (2018, March 31). Quarterly Reports. Retrieved from
  5. Liu, A. (2018, April 11). What Zostavax? GSK's Shingrix eclipses Merck shingles shot with massive market-share steal. Retrieved from
  6. Sagonowsky, E. (2017, July 21). Merck’s Zostavax draws new litigation from patients alleging they contracted shingles. Retrieved from
  7. Boda v. Merck et al. (2018, May 1). U.S. District Court Eastern District of Wisconsin. Jury Trial Demanded. Case No. Case 2:18-cv-00686. Retrieved from
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