Plaintiffs and their supporters head to Tokyo District Court on July 27 to submit a mass lawsuit related to side effects from cervical cancer vaccines. (Naoko Kawamura)
Sixty-three young women are seeking a combined 945 million yen ($9 million) in compensation in the first mass lawsuit concerning side effects from cervical cancer vaccines.
The women are suing the central government and pharmaceutical companies GlaxoSmithKline Plc and MSD KK.
The lawsuits were filed July 27 in the district courts at Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and Fukuoka. The plaintiffs are aged between 15 and 22.
The women argue they have suffered health problems, such as pain in various parts of their bodies, difficulty in walking and also impaired eyesight, as a result of taking the vaccines that were meant to prevent cervical cancer.
They were mostly in junior or senior high school when they took the vaccines between July 2010 and July 2013.
The vaccines under question are GSK’s Cervarix, which was approved for domestic use in 2009, and MSD’s Gardasil, which was approved in 2011.
The plaintiffs argue that reports had been filed overseas where the two vaccines were in use before Japan about various side effects, including cases of death and serious illness.
The women claim the central government bears responsibility for approving the vaccines and recommending their use without adequately looking into safety concerns despite knowing about the possible dangers.
The lawsuit argues that a legal causal relationship exists because common symptoms appeared among the plaintiffs after taking the vaccines.
According to officials at the health ministry, about 3.4 million women have taken the vaccines. As of the end of April, some 2,900 reports had been submitted by medical facilities and the pharmaceutical companies that indicated possible side effects. Of those cases, 1,600 were considered serious.
“We would like to refrain from commenting,” said a health ministry official with regard to the lawsuit. “We believe it is important to provide support while being there for those who are suffering.”
A GSK spokesperson declined comment on the grounds the company had not yet received a copy of the lawsuit.
MSD released a statement that said the company plans to submit evidence in court.
(This article was written by Seiko Sadakuni and Tomoyo Fukumiya.)