Zostavax Litigation

Memphis Defective Drug Lawyers Handling Zostavax Litigation

Merck’s preventative shingles vaccine may give you shingles instead

As a child, you probably had chickenpox. The virus that causes chickenpox (varicella) is the same virus (varicella-zoster) that causes herpes zoster – also known as, shingles. For most adults, shingles is not a life-threatening condition, but it is an incredibly painful one. When Merck developed a vaccine designed to prevent shingles, many people took the drug.

Zostavax, the anti-shingles vaccine created and marketed by Merck, appears to actually cause people to develop shingles. Bailey & Greer, PLLC, is currently accepting cases on behalf of victims who developed the shingles virus as a result of taking Zostavax. Please contact us or call us toll free at 901-680-9777 to discuss your options at one of our offices in Memphis, Jackson, or Nashville.

How do you get shingles?

When you get chickenpox as a kid, the virus can remain dormant in your system for years. It hunkers down in your nerve tissue around your brain and spine, and there it stays. No one really knows why it reactivates, but sometimes it does – usually in older patients or those who are immuno-compromised. It may also reactivate in patients taking anti-rejection medications after an organ transplant or those undergoing radiation or chemotherapy.

Can having herpes affect whether you get shingles?

Varicella-zoster is a type of herpes virus, but it has no correlation to cold sores or genital herpes.

How a vaccine can cause the condition it was supposed to prevent

Vaccines are made in two ways: either with a “dead” version of a virus, where the infectious part of the virus is removed, or with a “live” version of the virus, which has been cultivated to be weaker. In either case, our bodies are supposed to be able to defend themselves against the viral cells.

However, when you use a live vaccine, there is always a chance that the cells could mutate and become virulent again.

Zostavax is a live vaccine, available to people aged 50 or older – the very people who are at the greatest risk of developing shingles in the first place. If their immune systems are compromised in any way or simply weaker because of age, then their bodies may not be able to fight back if the vaccine mutates.

The problem with Merck and Zostavax

Zostavax has never been a particularly effective vaccine. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) reports that “researchers found that overall (in persons age 60 years and older) the vaccine reduced the occurrence of herpes zoster (shingles) by about 50%. The vaccine effect was highest at 64% in people between the ages 60-69, but its effectiveness declined with increasing age; to 41% for the 70-79 age group, and 18% for those 80 years of age and older.” People between 50 and 59, however, had a decreased risk of developing shingles.

Zostavax first entered the market in 2006. At that time, Merck did not list shingles as a potential side effect of getting the vaccine – despite the fact that the drug proved ineffective for a higher percentage of people. The original lawsuits (which were consolidated in an MDL in Spring of 2018) claim that “Instead of preventing shingles, Zostavax caused the plaintiffs to ‘contract a persistent strain of herpes zoster’ … resulting in painful outbreaks, hospital visits and post-herpetic neuralgia in two cases.” The lawsuits also claim “Merck knew, or should have known, that its product caused viral infection, and was therefore not safe for administration to consumers.”

The symptoms of shingles

All vaccines come with risks; that is the nature of medicine. But when it comes to shingles, there is much more at play than pain. Shingles is very contagious, which means if you develop the virus, you can put others at risk too. It can cause fevers and light sensitivity, and it makes your skin feel tender. Per the Mayo Clinic, more serious complications include:

  • Infections. Shingles blister and pop. This leaves open doorways, so to speak, for infection to set in. If that infection is not caught and treated, a person can eventually become septic.
  • Vision loss. Shingles outbreaks usually wrap around a person’s torso, but they can also spread up the neck and face. This can lead to eye infections which eventually can end with permanent vision loss.
  • Nerve damage. Because the varicella virus lingers in nerve tissue, shingles can lead to encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), nerve damage, balance problems, facial paralysis, and more.
  • Chronic pain. Postherpetic neuralgia “occurs when damaged nerve fibers send confused and exaggerated messages of pain from your skin to your brain.” Even after your shingles have cleared up, you may still experience the pain of the condition.

Complications associated with Zostavax

The complications with shingles are serious; the complications with a defective drug like Zostavax can be deadly. Lawsuits link the drug to:

  • Strokes
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Heart attacks
  • Anaphylaxis
  • Inflammation of the spinal cord
  • Autoimmune conditions like Guillain-Barre Syndrome and Meniere’s Disease
  • Pneumonia
  • Death

I took Zostavax and developed shingles. What should I do?

If you took Zostavax and developed shingles, or experienced any of the complications or side effects associated with shingles or with the drug, you could be entitled to compensation for your injuries, your pain and suffering, and your lost wages, among other things. Bailey & Greer, PLLC, is currently accepting cases on behalf of clients throughout Tennessee who have developed the shingles virus or sustained other serious injuries after being vaccinated with Zostavax. Please contact us to find out what option is right for you.

Experienced medical product liability lawyers serving West Tennessee

Bailey & Greer, PLLC, handles complex medical liability cases stemming from defective drugs and acts of medical negligence. If you or your loved one was infected with shingles after taking Zostavax or were seriously injured as a result of Merck’s shingles vaccine, we want to help. To schedule a free consultation at our office in Memphis or in Jackson, please call 901-680-9777 or fill out our contact form.