By Christina Grube & Mark York
(MASS TORT NEWS) – On October 11th, Judge Robert J. Conrad, Jr of the Western District of North Carolina officially approved docket leadership in MDL 3036 against Merck for the HPV vaccine, Gardasil. Judge Conrad approved documents (shown below) filed in September assigning the following attorneys to litigation leadership: Bijan Esfandiari of Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman, Rachel Lanier of the Lanier Law Firm, and Paul Pennock of Morgan & Morgan received co-lead counsel appointments, with Allison Mullins of Turning Point Litigation appointed as liaison counsel for plaintiffs.
“We are pleased that the judge appointed an alliance of proven litigators to represent Gardasil survivors,” attorney Bijan Esfandiari said. “We look forward to giving our clients the chance to finally be heard in court backed by a group of lawyers with proven success in high-stakes litigation. We will work together to seek justice for people who have seen their lives destroyed by a defective and dangerous product.” Esfandiari’s appointment comes less than a month after his firm filed a wrongful death suit against Merck on behalf of a 13 year old boy.
Rachel Lanier described her appointment as “an honor and privilege.” She told MTN “I’ve seen first-hand the damage these products can cause and the unconscionable behavior of huge corporations seeking to protect their profitability.”
“We are committed,” Lanier continued, “to holding Merck responsible for the inadequate testing, false claims and subterfuge the company engaged in that so profoundly damaged so many lives.”
According to Merck marketing, Gardasil provides lifetime immunity to cervical and other HPV-associated cancers. However plaintiffs in Gardasil litigation say Merck’s marketing claim that Gardasil prevents cancer and offers lifetime immunity remains unproven. Many claim Gardasil may actually be more likely to cause cancer in those previously exposed to HPV than prevent it.
Lawsuits further allege that Merck knows and actively conceals the fact that Gardasil can cause a constellation of serious reactions and adverse side effects. According to the complaints, Gardasil contains numerous hazardous ingredients, even including at least one ingredient which Merck failed to disclose to regulators and the public. Studies show that one of Gardasil’s ingredients, Amorphous Aluminum Hydroxyphosphate Sulfate (AAHS), binds to non-vaccine proteins, triggering autoimmune disorders.
Merck maintains a history of bringing controversial products to market, including; Fosamax, a purported bone density drug which causes bone fractures; Nuvaring, a birth control device associated with life-threatening blood clots and death; and the infamous Vioxx, a pain medication the company had to pull from the market due to cardiovascular risks. Tens of thousands of patients filed lawsuits against Merck alleging they suffered heart attacks and other cardiovascular injuries as a result of using Vioxx.
Litigation surrounding Vioxx revealed Merck knew the medications links with fatal cardiovascular events, yet chose to conceal the risks from the public. Vioxx lawsuits accused Merck’s of downplaying the severity of the medication’s risks, misrepresenting the results of its clinical trials, failing to undertake the clinical trials that would reveal risks, and blacklisting medical professionals who dared to publicly criticize the safety of the medication.
Gardasil plaintiffs note that Merck’s behavior of concealing drug risks to falsely enhance a vaccine’s safety profile as in Vioxx seemed to have repeated itself in Gardasil. Lawsuits allege that Merck designed its clinical trial studies to purposefully conceal evidence of chronic conditions such as autoimmune diseases while exaggerating the vaccine’s purported efficacy.