Ministry finds IDs of hep C patients

Kyodo News

News photo
Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corp. President Natsuki Hayama – and Vice President Takeshi
Komine (right) face reporters at the health ministry Monday.

The 118 are among 418 hepatitis C patients infected by tainted fibrinogen made by the now-defunct blood product maker Green Cross Corp.

In 2002, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry received a list of the 418 patients from the maker, which was succeeded by Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma Corp. At the time, neither the ministry nor the company told the patients how they had been infected, citing insufficient information to confirm their identities.

But the ministry now says it has documents containing the names of two patients and the initials of 116 others, after being directed to search for them by health minister Yoichi Masuzoe, officials said.

In addition to the 118, the documents contain information linking 24 patients to medical institutions and the case analyses of 47 others, it said.

The documents state the names of the medical institutions in charge of treatment for three patients and other information such as the treatment process for the remaining 44 patients.

The development drew strong criticism from plaintiffs in lawsuits against the government and the manufacturers over their hepatitis C infections.

“I wonder why the ministry did not tell the patients earlier. It may have feared that the number of plaintiffs would increase further,” said Satoko Kuwata, head of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit pending at the Osaka High Court. “The ministry’s responsibility is grave.”

A plaintiff in a similar suit filed over the infections said that if the patients had been informed sooner, they could have taken steps to mitigate the symptoms of the disease.

The total of 165 patients includes nine plaintiffs in the lawsuits against the government. The government has denied that two of the nine plaintiffs were treated with the blood products.

The ministry has set up an internal investigation panel to examine why it made no efforts to identify and inform the patients about the infections and to determine if it should bear legal and humanitarian responsibility for neglecting the 118 patients.

Masuzoe demanded Monday that Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma President Natsuki Hayama inform those patients who have developed hepatitis C as a result of the product.

Hayama said the company can identify 367 of the 418 patients.