Court junks Sanofi, Zuellig bid to dismiss Dengvaxia raps

Protesters display placards during a rally outside the Department of Health as they demand accountability for government officials involved in the controversial immunization of the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia to more than 700,000 Filipino children, December 8, 2017 in Manila. The controversial vaccine, manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur, was put on hold by the Philippines after new study findings showed it posed risks of severe cases in people without previous infection. The controversy has prompted the Philippine Senate to conduct an investigation.

THE Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City has denied the motions filed by the officers of Sanofi Pasteur Inc. (SPI)  and Zuellig Pharma Corp. seeking the dismissal of the damage suit filed against them over the deaths of children inoculated with the controversial Dengvaxia vaccine.

A resolution issued by QC RTC Branch 226 Presiding Judge Manuel Sta. Cruz Jr., held that the complaint filed by the heirs of Abbie Hedia sufficiently state a cause of action against the officers of the two companies to proceed with the trial of the case.

Based on the complaint, SPI manufactured Dengvaxia vaccine despite being unsafe since it was still in the clinical trial stage.

It added that SPI failed to inform the public of the risks of the product either through safety warnings, accompanying instructions or indication on use, or product label.

The complainant claimed that even after reports of serious adverse and life-threatening reactions and deaths of Dengvaxia recipients, the company offered no assistance to its supposed victims, even by way of medical attention.

The parents of Hedia narrated that prior to her vaccination, their daughter was a healthy and active child who seldom got sick.

On the other hand, the complainants blamed Zuellig for selling Dengvaxia for mass administration despite its health risks.

“Hypothetically admitting the mentioned allegations together with other facts alleged in the complaint, the court may render a judgment upon the same,” the court ruled.

Thus, the Court directed the officers of SPI—Carlito Realuyo, Conchita Santos, Jazel Anne Calvo and Pearl Grace Cabali—to answer the damage suit within five days upon receipt of the order.

“The plaintiffs are directed to coordinate with the sheriff/process server of the Branch within 60 days from receipt of this order for service of summons to the other defendants,” the resolution read.

The Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) has filed several criminal complaints before the Department of Justice  (DOJ) and independent civil actions for damages before various Quezon City courts in connection with the Dengvaxia mess.

A  total of 860,000 people, including 830,000 children, from Metro
Manila, Calabarzon, Central Luzon and Cebu were inoculated with
Dengvaxia in 2016.

The immunization program was started during the time of then-President Benigno Aquino III  and continued by the Duterte administration before the Department of Health (DOH)  stopped the program in November 2017. This, after Sanofi Pasteur announced that, while it may be effective to prevent future dengue infections, it may pose risks to those who have had no dengue infection. The latter could suffer a severe form of the hemorrhagic disease.

In March this year, the DOJ approved the indictment of former Health Secretary Janette Garin, several officials from the DOH, the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and SPI.

The DOJ panel said it found “Garin and the other respondents to have exhibited ‘inexcusable lack of precaution and foresight’ when they facilitated, with undue haste, ‘the registration and purchase of Dengvaxia’ and used the vaccine in implementing a school-based dengue mass immunization program.”

It also said that Garin and the other respondents reportedly circumvented various regulations in the purchase of P3.5 billion worth of the anti-dengue vaccine, and this constituted proof of their reckless imprudence.

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