LAST month the matter of the class action against Zoetis, the makers of the Hendra vaccine, appeared before Justice Michael Lee in the Federal Court. (See related story: Hendra Class Action)
On hearing the initial submissions Justice Lee said, “…I can tell you that the one thing that’s clear to me in this case, is that a claim can be pleaded.”
Under pharmaceutical laws new trial vaccines can be administered under a special ‘minor use’ permit to be used reactively during an outbreak, however before a vaccine can be used more broadly and proactively it must first go through full clinical trials to identify side effects.
LHD Lawyers argue that this was not the case with the Hendra vaccine, that following the use during the outbreak, Zoetis then aggressively marketed the vaccine for all horses in Australia in breach of the licencing and without proper clinical trials to identify side effects.
Zoetis’ claims that the virus is contracted by horses from bats is also challenged, following the results of their own clinical trials where the live virus was not contracted by any horses including:
- placing horse and cats in a confined space with Hendra infected bats;
- pumping infected bat urine down the horse’s nose, and
- being unable to infect horses with blood from infected bats and for the purposes of trialling the product, horses had to be infected with a synthetic form of Hendra.
Zoetis allege that because bats carry Hendra and horses contracted the virus in an area where bats were present, the bats therefore transmitted the virus to horses.
However, the CSIRO have provided advice that there was no scientific connection between Hendra carried by bats and the infection of horses.
Chris Barry QC, senior counsel described the logic of Zoetis as syllogism and alleges that because the virus is carried by other species, they ignore the possibility that the infections could have occurred from another source.
The class action also makes 23 claims of misleading and deceptive conduct by Zoetis including Hendra kills more veterinarians than any other cause and there was a risk of humans contracting the disease outside the area of the outbreak.
The Judge has indicated he will refer the series of issues raised to referees, typically retired judges or experienced independent barristers and the matter will again be before the court in February.
LHD are encouraging more claimants to join the class action: Register for Hendra Class Action.