Two drug firms charged in France over hepatitis vaccine
Drug companies facing charges in France over a hepatitis B vaccine blamed for the death of a 28-year-old woman in 1998 and which caused serious side effects among 1,300 patients.
PARIS, February 1, 2008 - Two drug companies are facing charges in France
over a hepatitis B vaccine blamed for the death of a 28-year-old woman in 1998
and which caused serious side effects among 1,300 patients.
Smithkline Beecham, now GlaxoSmithKline GSK, and Pasteur Merieux
MSD-Aventis Pasteur, now Sanofi Pasteur MSD, are accused of aggravated deceit
for failing to disclose the possible side effects from the vaccine, justice
officials said Thursday.
Pasteur MSD is also charged with involuntary homicide in the 1998 death of
Nathalie Desainquentin, who allegedly contracted multiple sclerosis from the
More than 20 million French people were vaccinated against hepatitis B from
1994 to 1998.
Lawyer Bernard Fau representing Desainquentin's family and other victims
expressed satisfaction with the decision to press charges, saying "this
supports our theory that the recommended use of the vaccination was not in
line with the real risks".
France's former rightwing government had launched a national vaccination
campaign against hepatitis B, which can infect the liver, in 1994 and
suspended it in 1998 after several lawsuits were lodged.
A total of 29 victims have filed suit including five who claim the vaccine
caused the death of a family member.
In 2005, a court threw out a suit for endangering lives against former
health ministers Jean-Francois Mattei, Bernard Kouchner and Philippe
Douste-Blazy over the vaccination campaign.
GSK and Pasteur MSD have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.