Victims of government-recommended cervical cancer vaccine to sue state, drugmakers

The Japan Times | 30 March 2016

Victims suffering side effects from cervical cancer vaccines that were once recommended by the government announced Wednesday they will file a lawsuit against the state and drugmakers.

“Many victims are still suffering from side effects of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines Cervarix and Gardsil, which include overall pain and disorders of perception, movement and memory,” lawyer Masumi Minaguchi, a representative from the planned lawsuit’s defense team told a news conference in Tokyo.

Minaguchi said the victims will file the suit sometime after June against the central government, GlaxoSmithKlien PLC, the maker of Cervarix, and Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., the maker of Gardsil, at four district courts in Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka and Fukuoka.

“The victims wish to live a peaceful life and prevent further suffering by finding out the truth (about the vaccine side effects),” Minaguchi added.

She said the defense team will seek additional plaintiffs to join the lawsuit by holding seminars in April and May. Currently, 12 plaintiffs are taking part in the suit, according to Minaguchi.

Saitama Prefecture resident Nanami Sakai, who plans to be one of the plaintiffs, was one of four to attend the news conference. The 21-year-old, who was given Cervarix twice in 2011, said she did not receive information about the pros and cons of the vaccine before receiving the injections.

“I’d like to know why I was left scarred by the vaccine, why I was not able to receive proper treatment right away and why my situation was not adequately conveyed to the state,” Sakai said.

Sitting in a wheelchair, Sakai said she has numbness in the right side of her body, back and around her chest.

Yui Taniguchi, who suffers from a number of symptoms including severe headaches and occasional loss of vision, said she decided to join the suit in order to show that there are many people whose lives have been turned upside-down by the vaccines’ side effects.

“I felt I needed to speak out so that we won’t see another such victim in the future,” Taniguchi, a 17-year-old high school student from Nara Prefecture, said at the news conference.

Cervical cancer is caused by the human papillomavirus, which is transmitted mainly through sexual intercourse. The cervical cancer vaccines are believed to help prevent HPV.

According to health ministry figures, 2,022 people suffered side effects out of an estimated 2.59 million who had received injections of Cervarix by the end of 2014. Out of an estimated 790,000 people given Gardasil 453 experienced side effects.

In April 2013, after the Diet revised the Preventive Vaccination Law, the health ministry began recommending that girls between the ages of 12 and 16 be vaccinated.

However, the ministry halted the recommendations in June that year following a number of cases involving reported side effects.

The health ministry says about 9,000 women in Japan develop cervical cancer each year and around 2,700 die from the disease.

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