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Ireland Drops Lawsuit Against U.S. Pharmaceutical Companies

The Irish government has decided not to pursue litigation against several U.S.-based
pharmaceutical companies that manufactured clotting factor products contaminated with
the blood-borne viruses hepatitis C and/or HIV/AIDS in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The decision was reached after extensive legal consultations with a U.S. law firm and the
Irish Attorney General. The Irish government concluded that a U.S. lawsuit was highly
unlikely to succeed.

Some of the reasons cited for this decision were:  the Irish Health Department might itself
be found “negligent” in continuing to distribute tainted products after 1991; the statute of
limitations for making legal claims had run out by 1995; and the risk that a U.S. court
might reject the suit outright on grounds that it would be more appropriately heard in an
Irish court.

The announcement was made by Mary Harney, Health Minister and Deputy Prime
Minister. “I think for the state to pursue legal action with no possibility of winning would
be dishonest in the extreme,” she said.

Brian O'Mahony, President of the Irish Haemophilia Society, has come out firmly against
the government’s position. “We're disgusted that it has taken this government eight years
to promise they would seek justice, and ultimately to deliver nothing, hiding behind the
catchall excuse of ‘legal advice,’” he said.

More than half of the approximately 500 people living with hemophilia in Ireland
contracted hepatitis C and/or HIV/AIDS through the use of contaminated blood products. 
According to O'Mahony, over 90 of them have already died from complications.

Source: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation News, July 26, 2006


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