January 11, 2008
On Friday, Japan's upper house in the Diet unanimously passed a bill to apologize and compensate patients who were infected with hepatitis C through contaminated blood products.
The victims say the government continued to approve the use of the blood-clotting agent fibrinogen for years after 1977, when the United States discontinued using it due to its risks. Before its use was suspended, the product was tied in reports to outbreaks of hepatitis C in Japan as early as the mid-1980s. It is also thought the risks were well-known in medical circles.
"I offer my heartfelt apologies to the patients and their bereaved families," Prime Minister Yasuo Fukada said in a statement after the vote. The lower house passed the measure earlier in the week.
Under the law, which is expected to take effect next week, about 1,000 people with hepatitis C will receive compensation ranging from ¥12 million to ¥40 million (US $109,450-$365,000), depending on the severity of their condition, according to the Health Ministry.
The law directs the government to call on drug makers Nihon Pharmaceutical Co., Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma and its subsidiary Benesis Corp. to contribute to the victims' compensation fund.