Merck Faces Wrongful Death Lawsuit Over Gardasil Vaccine

Merck Faces Wrongful Death Lawsuit Over Gardasil Vaccine

A family recently filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Merck & Co. Inc., the manufacturer of the HPV vaccine, Gardasil. Clifton and Kelli Foley recently filed a lawsuit that alleges Gardasil contributed to the untimely death of their 13-year-old son, Noah Foley. Gardasil is one of two vaccines on the market that prevents HPV. Over the years, studies have questioned the safety of Gardasil. Research has pointed to a possible connection between the HPV vaccine and severe autoimmune, nervous, and reproductive disorders.

Gardasil May Cause Adverse Health Complications 

New Jersey-based pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co., Inc. introduced Gardasil to immunize adolescents against HPV in 2006. Human papillomavirus is one of the most prevalent sexually transmitted infections but is most common among teens and young adults. The STI is easily transmissible and characterized by genital warts, with more severe cases leading to cancer. 

Merck’s Gardasil stimulates the body’s immune system to produce antibodies against HPV. It is one of the two FDA-approved vaccines on the market to stop HPV. However, health experts were hesitant regarding the FDA’s six-month fast-track approval of Gardasil. Many expressed concerns that this expedited approval did not allot enough time to sufficiently test Gardasil’s side effects. Individuals reported 12,000 adverse health reports only two years after Gardasil hit the market. By 2019, the FDA had received 64,000 adverse health reports concerning the HPV vaccine. Patients have reported severe issues related to the vaccine, including:

  • Guillain–Barré syndrome
  • Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome
  • Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Death

Parents Allege Gardasil Resulted in 13-year-old Son’s Death

Clifton Foley and Kelli Foley tragically lost their son, Noah Foley, in October 2020. In late September of 2022, the North Carolina couple filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Merck & Co., Inc. and its subsidiary, Merck Sharp & Dohme. The wrongful death lawsuit claims that Merck:

  • Risks the lives of patients despite its knowledge of the harmful and sometimes fatal dangers of Gardasil
  • Failed to inform the public and medical providers of the possibility of injury or death due to Gardasil
  • Conducted relentless propaganda to guilt and frighten parents into immunizing their children with Gardasil 
  • Falsely promoted Gardasil and concealed the vaccine’s risk, which created a substantial risk of harm for children injected with the vaccine

Lawsuit Details Gardasil Resulted in Noah’s Rapid Decline

Noah Foley received his first and only dose of Gardasil back in May 2018, just two days after his 11th birthday. Noah’s mother decided to immunize her son after seeing marketing that portrayed Gardasil as an effective vaccine to prevent HPV-related cancers. Attorneys for the Foleys mentioned that Merck’s advertising aimed to pressure parents by implying they were “bad” parents if they did not protect their children from cancer. Noah’s parents claim that before the Gardasil vaccine, Noah was a perfectly healthy boy with a clean bill of health, free of any autoimmune issues. However, shortly after his injection, Noah’s health rapidly declined. It began with inexplicably high fevers that plagued Noah throughout the summer of 2018. 

Noah had several appointments with gastroenterology and rheumatology specialists at Duke University Medical Center from October 2018 to May 2019. Yet, despite elevated white blood cell counts, swollen lymph nodes, and weight loss, no one could determine the definitive cause of Noah’s illness. Noah continued to suffer fevers and rapid weight loss until September 29, 2020, when his parents rushed him to the ER because his leg went numb. Shortly afterward, on September 30, 2020, Noah was declared brain dead. 

Current and Previous Litigation Against Merck & Co., Inc. 

The lawsuit alleges that Noah died of encephalitis caused by an autoimmune dysregulation process. Dysregulation means that Noah’s body couldn’t control or restrain its immune response. Noah’s parents attribute this immune failure to the Gardasil vaccination in the lawsuit against Merck. This wrongful death case is one of many filed against Merck for Gardasil. In August 2022, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) consolidated federal Gardasil lawsuits into MDL-3606. 

Lawsuits allege Merck & Co., Inc. falsified the clinical trials and presented misleading information to secure Gardasil’s FDA approval. Merck allegedly downplayed the negative autoimmune responses during Gardasil clinical trials while exaggerating the vaccine’s efficacy. Previously, lawsuits accused Merck of tampering with clinical trials and withholding evidence for its arthritis drug, Vioxx. Patients experienced dangerous cardiovascular risks after taking Vioxx, but Merck obscured Vioxx testing to hide the cardiovascular side effects. 

Through this lawsuit, the Foleys state they “want justice for our son, who suffered mightily because Merck never told us that serious adverse effects were possible. We want accountability and acknowledgment that what they’ve done is wrong. We hope that our case will raise awareness and provide other families the opportunity to make more informed choices about the risks associated with Gardasil.”