Drug firm threatened us, say MMR
James Meikle, health correspondent
Wednesday May 12, 2004
Families who claim the MMR vaccine has caused illnesses in their children
have accused one of the three drug companies involved in the case of trying
to intimidate them into dropping legal action.
Lawyers for Merck & Co wanted to know whether the families were going to
pursue their cases now that public funding, already worth £15m, was likely
to be withdrawn. They said the costs of the action had been "considerable"
and children and their parents would be "at risk of facing a
liability for any further costs Merck continues to incur in defending the
About 500 families are thought to have received letters from the company's
lawyers, Lovells, saying Merck would not seek any order for costs as long as
they "give an undertaking to us ... not to issue any further proceedings
arising out of vaccination with MMR vaccine against Merck in this or
any other jurisdiction".
Jackie Fletcher, of the campaign group Jabs, said she knew of two families
who had already given such under-takings. "It is very threatening and
intimidating. It has already put the fear of God into parents. They are
just going to hear alarm bells and think, 'the cost, the money, my
Lovells said it had informed the families' solicitors about what they were
doing. "We were not endeavouring to pressure people to act one way or
another," said a spokeswoman.
The company had simply been stating "the potential cost liability if they
cease to be legally aided".