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.
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.
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