Drug maker gets double dose of new suits

By Steve Gonzalez | Nov 10, 2004

The maker of Vioxx--Merck & Co.--was hit hard in Madison County Court Wednesday. On top of another Vioxx class action suit (see related story), the pharmaceutical company was the subject of a product liability suit filed by John and Ann Haderlein on behalf of their son, Eric.

A seven-count suit seeking damages in excess of $350,000, claims Eric Haderlein suffers from the effects of mercury poisoning caused by the negligence of the defendants’ products with which the infant was immunized between June 1996 through July 1998.

Abbot Labs, Dow Chemical, Eli Lilly, and Sigma-Aldrich are also named as defendants in the suit along with nine other pharmaceutical companies.

The Haderleins are represented by Wise & Julian, an Alton firm.

According to the complaint, certain infant injections that were designed, manufactured, sold and or distributed by the defendants contained a mercury-laden preservative called thimerosal.

By following an immunization schedule during the first 18 months of life, infants are exposed to 237.5 micrograms of mercury from thimerosal in infant injections.

The Haderleins allege this exposure resulted in a mercury body burden in the average 18 month old that exceeds federal exposure guidelines by a factor of 30 times the permissible limit.

In the 1980s the FDA issued a regulation requiring the removal of thimerosal from all over-the-counter products due to safety concerns. On Dec. 14, 1998, the FDA published a notice in the federal register requesting that drug manufacturers provide data on mercury content in their products.

The Haderleins allege Eric was subject to very high doses of mercury contained in thimerosal, a highly toxic preservative intentionally added to infant injections so the defendants could market and sell their products in multi-dose packages as opposed to single-dose packages, without adequate testing, without warnings and despite the ready availability of a substitute preservative.

As a result of the mercury Eric received as an infant, his parents claim he now suffers, and in the future will continue to suffer from the toxic neurological effects of mercury poisoning.

In addition to economic compensation, they request proper and adequate punitive damages as a result of the defendants’ actual willful and wanton misconduct in utter indifference to and in conscious, reckless and wanton disregard for Eric’s safety.

The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron.

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