Attorneys representing Merck and those for plaintiffs who allege that the pharmaceutical company’s Gardasil HPV vaccine caused them to develop various types of injuries have told the judge overseeing the dozens of cases in the Gardasil multidistrict litigation (MDL) they are making progress in selecting bellwether cases. 

Merck is facing approximately 90 lawsuits in the Gardasil MDL. Approved in 2006, Gardasil is a vaccine against Human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually-transmitted infection in the United States. HPV infections can lead to a number of cancers later in life including anal cancer, cervical cancer, oropharyngeal cancer, penile cancer, vaginal cancer, and vulvar cancer. Typically administered to teens and young adults before they are sexually active, Gardasil is blamed by plaintiffs for causing various complications, including:

  • Autoimmune disorders 
  • Paralysis/Guillan Barre Syndrome
  • Bronchospasms (difficulty breathing)
  • Infertility
  • Neurological dysfunction
  • Chronic regional pain syndrome 

Although the alleged serious adverse side effects of the Gardasil HPV vaccine vary, unlike similar claims of non-Hodgkins lymphoma in the Roundup weedkiller MDL, Gardasil personal injury claims filed in federal court were approved for consolidation by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) in 2022, assigned to the Western District of North Carolina. 

Before being assigned to the MDL, lawsuits must be filed on the plaintiffs’ behalf in the U.S. Vaccine Court. If plaintiffs wish to pursue their claims further, they must abide by an eight-month waiting period, after which they may have their cases assigned to a U.S. District Court. 

Attorneys for both parties in the MDL have thus far selected 16 cases for potential bellwether trials. The earliest trial date in the MDL is not expected to begin until late next year. 

In a report submitted July 18, plaintiffs’ attorneys discussed the progress of the initial cases and requested the MDL judge cancel a scheduled status conference on July 25, 2023, to make changes to complaints in 13 out of 16 bellwether cases and allow Merck attorneys more time to provide information related to those claims.