01 Mar

Parents must use special vaccine court , not lawsuits, for autism vaccine cases


Submitted by Anissa Ford on 2011-03-01

 The Supreme Court has issued its second decision in two weeks that prevents parents from suing drug makers in suits that link autism or health disorders with vaccines. The Supreme Court voted yesterday and last week that the proper recourse for vaccination suits is a special vaccine court established by Congress in 1986.

Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that a Pittsburgh couple, Robalee and Russell Bruesewitz, could not sue drug maker Wyeth after their daughter developed a seizure disorder after a round of diptheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccinations and immunizations.

The High Court ruled that lawsuits against drug manufacturers for childhood immunizations and vaccines were barred by the National Childhood Vaccine Act of 1986.

Robalee and Russell Bruesewitz have been in a 15-year fight with Wyeth over their daughter’s condition. The Bruesewitz’s daughter Hannah was vaccinated in 1992 and 24 hours later the six-month old started having seizures. During the next month, the Bruesewitz’s testified that Hannah had more than 100 seizure related episodes.

But the Supreme Court ruled last week that the Bruesewitz’s and any other families who want to sue drug makers for vaccine related injuries to their children are barred by law.

The Supreme Court voted 6-2 in favor of Wyeth and against the Bruesewitz’s. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in a 19 page ruling that Congress set up a special vaccine court in 1986 to handle vaccination claims. The purpose of the special vaccine court was to prevent drug manufacturers from exiting the vaccine market. Justice Scalia wrote that the idea of the system was to spare drug coompanies the costs of defending against parents’ lawsuits.

However, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayer dissented. Sotomayer wrote that nothing in the 1986 law “remotely suggests Congress intended such a result.” The vaccine court has paid out more than $1.9 billion to more than 2,500 people who claimed a connection between a vaccine and serious health problems, according to an article in Southern California’s

The ruling closed the door to parents who wish to sue drug makers over claims that their children developed autism or other disorders as a result of vaccinations.

In a ruling yesterday, the Supreme Court referred to the Bruesewitz case which left Georgia couple Marcelo and Carolyn Ferrari without recourse in the claim against American Home Products. American Home Products- Wyeth, SmithKline Beecham dba GlaxoSmithKline and GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals – over a booster shot containing thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative (Courthouse News).

The Ferraris claimed the company’s drugs caused their son, Stefano, to develop autism. The Supreme Court’s ruling “vacated the a decision that held Wyeth could be liable for a child who was diagnosed with autism after being vaccinated.”

The Ferraris case reached the Supreme Court because the case won appeal in a Georgia Trial Court and the Georgia Supreme court affirmed the appeal decision in 2008.

Wyeth fought the appeal in a petition to the Supreme Court. In the petition, Wyeth stated that allegations of vaccines as the cause for autism have “swept through the media and the internet” but every “reputable scientific body and governmental agency” that has studied the autism vaccine link has rejected a connection between the two.

Sotomayer and Ginsberg stated in the Bruesewitz case that the Supreme Court’s “decision leaves a regulatory vacuum in which no one ensures that vaccine manufacturers adequately take account of scientific and technological advancements when designing or distributing their products.”

Justice Elena Kagan did not participate in the court’s consideration or decision of the Ferrari or Bruesewitz lawsuit.

Although the law has officially ended the possibilities of vaccine injury related lawsuits against drug manufacturers, and even though Dr. Andrew Wakefield has been labeled a fraud in his successful endeavor to promote vaccine and autism connections, the decision by the court to continue to shield drug makers raises skepticism about the safety of drugs.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, however, applauded last week’s decision. The APA says the decision protects children and strengthens the country’s national immunization system by ensuring that vaccines will continue to prevent the spread of infectious diseases in the country.

The pharmaceutical industry typically reports quarter earnings that exceed billions.

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