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Fukuda says Japan government responsible for hepatitis infections

Fukuda says Japan government responsible for hepatitis infections

The Japanese government bears the ultimate responsibility for hepatitis C infections caused by tainted blood products, Japan's Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said yesterday.
"Pharmaceutical matters are the responsibility of the authority that grants permissions for them. In that sense, I believe the government bears responsibility in various ways, including moral responsibility," Fukuda told reporters.
"I expect we'll be discussing the matter further in the (ruling) party as we work on this," he added, referring to proposed legislation aimed at providing aid to a group of about 1,000 hepatitis C sufferers.
The prime minister also said he intended to meet with the group, who are seeking damages from the government and drug makers.
About 200 patients have filed lawsuits in five courts across Japan, demanding compensation from the government and drug makers Nihon Pharmaceutical Co., Mitsubishi Pharma Corp. - now called Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma - and its subsidiary Benesis Corp.. Japanese media say about 800 more are expected to file suits.
The plaintiffs say they contracted hepatitis C while using defective blood-clotting medicines, mostly in the 1980s, and claim the government and the drug-makers continued to use the medicines, despite knowing they were potentially contaminated.
Four of the five courts have ordered the defendants - the government and drug makers - to compensate dozens of patients and the Osaka High Court issued a settlement proposal in November. The two sides have since attempted to reach an out-of-court settlement, although negotiations have bogged down over how the plaintiffs would be compensated.
On Sunday, Fukuda said his ruling bloc would submit legislation - drafted in consultation with the main opposition Democratic Party - to provide aid to tainted blood patients.
Although as many as 10,000 people may have been infected by hepatitis C through the tainted products, only the 1,000 lawsuit participants are expected to be eligible for the aid.
The drug makers have publicly said little on the issue, other than that they were keeping a close eye on the progress of the lawsuits. Phones rang unanswered at the three companies yesterday.
Hepatitis C is a chronic, blood-borne virus that that can cause damage to the liver leading to cancer, cirrhosis and liver failure. It is treatable, but many people who have the disease do not even know they are infected.
An estimated 2 million Japanese have contracted the disease, many through tainted blood products, media reports say.


Updated : 2020-12-04 22:49 GMT+08:00