• Kyodo

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The Fukuoka District Court ordered the state and drug companies Wednesday to pay a combined 168 million yen in damages to 11 of 18 people infected with the hepatitis C virus from tainted blood products.

The 18 plaintiffs from Kyushu and Okinawa had claimed that the state and two drugmakers — Mitsubishi Pharma Corp. and Benesis Corp., a Mitsubishi Pharma subsidiary — were responsible for their infections and demanded 1.17 billion yen in damages.

Presiding Judge Keiji Suda said the state was responsible as it failed to take steps to stop the use of the tainted blood products.

The 11 who were awarded damages were treated with fibrinogen and other blood-clotting drugs after November 1980.

It is the second time a district court has found the state and the drugmakers responsible. On June 21, the Osaka District Court made a similar ruling.

The plaintiffs said they were infected between 1977 and 1988 from fibrinogen, manufactured by the now-defunct Green Cross Corp., or other blood-clotting products administered after giving birth or having surgery. They all have developed hepatic cirrhosis or chronic hepatitis.

Similar lawsuits have been filed at district courts in Tokyo, Nagoya and Sendai.

In the June ruling, the Osaka court said the state failed to implement regulations even after a mass infection of hepatitis C was discovered in Aomori Prefecture in April 1987, ordering it to compensate for the infections that occurred after the discovery.

The Osaka court ordered the drugmakers to compensate for damage caused by taking ineffective measures at their factories to prevent infections since August 1985.

Mitsubishi Pharma was created as a result of several mergers that included Green Cross, blamed for causing numerous HIV infections through tainted blood products it sold to hospitals. Green Cross merged with Yoshimitsu Pharmaceuticals Industries Ltd. in 1998, which then merged with Mitsubishi-Tokyo Pharmaceuticals Inc. in 2001 to create Mitsubishi Pharma.

An estimated 2 million people nationwide have been infected with hepatitis C, according to medical experts, mainly from tainted blood products.

The U.S. issued warnings at least from the early 1980s about the dangers of unheated blood products and other agents, but Japan failed to heed them, leading to hundreds of hemophiliacs becoming HIV-infected.

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