The RhoGAM® Lawsuit
RhoGAM® is a medication used to counter the effects of Rh-incompatibility between mother and fetus. Prior to April of 2001, RhoGAM® contained thimerosal, a preservative composed, in part, of ethylmercury. Although no conclusive links have been found, some experts speculate that ethylmercury exposure may be a cause of certain health conditions such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and sensory integration disorder (SID), leading many patients to file claims in the RhoGAM® lawsuit. The FDA has therefore required that RhoGAM® be produced without thimerosal.
Blood normally contains a protein referred to as the Rh-factor, or the "D-antigen." If a person’s blood contains the protein, it is considered Rh-positive; if the protein is absent, the blood is considered Rh-negative. Rh-negative blood will react against foreign Rh-positive blood. This "Rh-incompatibility" poses a threat only when Rh-positive blood is introduced into the body of an Rh-negative person. This situation may occur if a pregnant woman with Rh-negative blood carries a child with Rh-positive blood. In such cases, the woman’s body may have an antigenic reaction to the blood of her child, and the antibodies she creates may cause a number of health problems should they enter the child’s circulation, from hypotonia, jaundice, and heart problems to stillbirth and motormental retardation.
RhoGAM® was first made available in 1968. The treatment keeps an Rh-negative woman from creating antibodies to the Rh-positive blood of her child. Rh-negative women are given a RhoGAM® injection during the twenty-eighth week of pregnancy and again after delivery. The RhoGAM® treatment is derived from human plasma and contains antibodies that Rh-negative blood donors have created in response to encounters with Rh-positive blood. The treatment is a brand of Rh immunoglobulin (an immunoglobulin is a protein released by cells that functions in immune responses by bonding to antigens or foreign matter). The antibodies in the RhoGAM® attack any fetal blood cells that are outside the placenta. The foreign fetal cells are coated in the RhoGAM® antibodies and expulsed from the woman’s system before her body can detect them.
Thimerosal Preservative and RhoGAM®
Between its introduction onto the market and April of 2001, RhoGAM® contained the preservative thimerosal. Thimerosal has been shown to be effective in combating pathogens. However, the preservative’s ethylmercury content has been scrutinized because numerous studies have shown that methylmercury, a separate organomercurial composition, causes neurological disorders, especially in young children and infants in utero. Ethylmercury has not been shown to be as toxic as methylmercury but, in large doses, can have effects ranging from local allergic reactions to central nervous system damage.
In 1999, the FDA conducted a study on the effects of thimerosal on children. The study did not uncover any evidence that ethylmercury caused health risks to children, but in an overall effort to limit mercury use, medicine suppliers were asked to reduce or discontinue use of the product. Continued studies have been conducted on the effects of thimerosal, many addressing its possible neurological effects. Researchers are still attempting to identify a correlation between mercury poisoning and youth conditions such as autism, ADHD, and SID, all of which affect a child’s ability to concentrate.
Speak to a RhoGAM® Lawyer
If you believe the thimerosal in RhoGAM® has affected your child, you are encouraged to contact one of the qualified RhoGAM® attorneys in the ImpactLaw directory to arrange a consultation.