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Government Adopts Compromise on AIDS Lawsuit

March 15, 1996

TOKYO (AP) _ The Japanese government formally accepted today a court-brokered compromise to compensate hemophiliacs who contracted the AIDS virus through tainted blood products.

Health Minister Naoto Kan apologized again for bureaucratic negligence that allowed the sale of untreated blood to continue even after it became known that AIDS could be transmitted through blood products that had not been pasteurized.

The announcement came a day after the government and five pharmaceutical companies said they would agree to the compromise. It calls for each hemophiliac who was infected with the HIV virus to receive a one-time payment of $429,000, plus monthly payments of $1,428 for life to those with full-blown AIDS.

The settlement ends a seven-year case filed by about 400 hemophiliacs against the Health and Welfare Ministry and five companies that sell blood extracts hemophiliacs must inject.

Attorney Shunichi Sugiyama said the government continued to allow the sale of untreated blood products for two years after it became known in 1983 that AIDS could be transmitted through such products.

The suit also claimed that the companies, which could have lost big money from a recall of the products, aggressively marketed their inventories of the unsafe products.

Sugiyama said the plaintiffs, many of whom were youngsters when they became infected between 1983 and 1985, are now dying at the rate of one every three days, and only about half are still alive.

They filed the suit in 1989, but it wasn’t until last October that the Tokyo and Osaka district courts recommended a speedy out-of-court settlement in the plaintiffs’ favor. Court-orchestrated settlements are common in Japan, where legal battles often drag on for years.

Last month Kan, who has been in office only since January, became the first to acknowledge his ministry’s responsibility. He also set up a team to investigate the companies, and began accusing them of criminal negligence.

The Deerfield, Ill.-based Baxter International announced late Wednesday in the United States that it had accepted the terms of the settlement. German giant Bayer AG’s Japanese subsidiary, Bayer Yakuhin Ltd., made a similar announcement Thursday.

The other companies are Green Cross Corp., Nippon Zoki Pharmaceutical Co. and the Chemo Sero Therapeutic Research Institute, all of Japan.

The government is to bear 44 percent of the compensation cost, and the five companies will split the rest, Baxter said.

Of an estimated 4,500 hemophiliacs in Japan, about 2,000 contracted HIV in the early 1980s from unheated blood products imported mainly from the United States.

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