Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) Zovastak, the shingles vaccine developed by Merck has increasingly come under a wave of lawsuits following claims that it is causing serious injury and sometimes even death. Plaintiffs in the lawsuits are now suing Merck for not warning them of the vaccine’s severe side effects. Merck has, however, denied the allegations saying that the efficacy and safety of its vaccine has been demonstrated in more than 50 countries in which it is licensed.
According to a spokesperson for Merck, since the vaccine was approved in 2006, over 36 million doses have been distributed. Six years ago the vaccine was approved for use in older adults ranging in the age of 50 and 59 years. And prior to being approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, trials had been conducted on over 30,000 patients. And a committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still issues recommendations for the use of the vaccine.
“The company has continuously provided appropriate and timely information about Zostavax to consumers and to the medical, scientific and regulatory communities,” added the New Jersey-based pharmaceutical giant.
Shingles occurs when the chicken pox virus is reactivated. To treat the disease, antiviral drugs including valaciclovir or aciclovir and pain relief drugs are used. The likelihood of developing shingles can also be minimized by getting a chickenpox vaccine as a child. As an adult a shingles vaccine can also minimize the risk.
Most of the lawsuits have been filed in the state of Pennsylvania. One law firm that is handling some of the lawsuits, Marc J. Bern & Partners, revealed that it anticipated cases numbering in the thousands to be filed.
In its full year results for 2016, Merck disclosed that Zovastak had netted the pharmaceutical giant revenues totaling $749 million. As the only shingles vaccine that had been approved in the United States, Merck will come under competitive pressure from GlaxoSmithKline plc (ADR) (NYSE:GSK) which towards the end of last sought the approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the approval of its own shingles vaccine named Shingrix.
On Thursday shares of Merck & Co Inc fell by 0.80% to close the day at $64.18.