Drug firm threatened us, say MMR families
http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/sciences/story/0,12243,1214795,00.html
James Meikle, health correspondent
Wednesday May 12, 2004
The Guardian

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know whether the families were going to pursue their cases now that public funding, already worth 15m, was likely to be withdrawn.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 claim".

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 house'."

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".