• Kyodo

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The Nagoya District Court on Monday ordered an importer of Chinese drugs to pay 33 million yen in damages to two women here who suffered kidney failure after using an herbal medicine marketed by the firm.

The court ordered Kaya, a drug importer based in Suita, Osaka Prefecture, to issue the payment despite dismissing the plaintiffs’ damages claim under the product liability law.

The two women, aged 60 and 69, reportedly suffered kidney failure after taking a Chinese herbal medicine called KM, prompting them to demand 81.6 million yen in damages under the liability law, which was implemented in July 1995.

Presiding Judge Junko Ikadazu said in handing down the ruling, “Although there is a possibility that the KM drug caused the failure of kidney functions, the court cannot find a causal relationship between the drug and the kidney failure under the product liability law, as the amount of drug taken by the plaintiffs after the implementation of the law was small.”

The judge acknowledged Kaya’s responsibility under the Civil Code, however, saying, “The company apparently failed to ensure the safety of its product, although it could have predicted the toxic effects of the drug on the kidneys.”

According to the ruling, the women’s doctors prescribed the drug in 1992 and 1993 for low body temperatures.

The women developed chronic renal failure in 1996.

Kaya recalled the drug in July 1997 and reported 11 cases of kidney failure caused by the drug to the then Health and Welfare Ministry.

The suit drew public attention as it was expected to be the first case in which a drugmaker or importer would be held responsible for causing a drug-induced injury under the product liability law.

Under the law, consumers seeking compensation from manufacturers, importers or retailers over injury caused by defective products need to prove the existence of a product defect and the occurrence of an injury as a result of this defect.

Under the Civil Code, which covers damages caused by defective products, consumers must prove negligence on the part of manufacturers and sellers.

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