A federal court in the District of Columbia has determined that an organization opposed to the use of mercury-based preservatives, such as Thimerosal, in vaccines, lacks standing to challenge in court the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) denial of its citizen petition seeking to ban the use of Thimerosal in pharmaceutical products, including vaccines. The Coal. For Mercury-Free Drugs v. Sebelius, No. 09-0015 (U.S. Dist. Ct., D.D.C., amended memorandum opinion filed June 29, 2010). FDA challenged the standing of the organization’s members who must have “standing to sue in their own right” so that an organization may file suit on their behalf in federal court.
The coalition members who filed declarations alleging injuries fell into three categories: those fearing the harmful effects of receiving these types of vaccinations, those actually injured by exposure to mercury-based compounds in vaccines and medical professionals alleging that their reputations would be harmed “absent action being taken by the defendants to address the presence of mercury-based compounds in vaccines.” Because the coalition members who feared injury acknowledged that Thimerosal-free alternatives are available, the court found that they lacked standing. The coalition members with past injuries could not meet standing requirements because the coalition was seeking prospective relief, “not relief that would remedy their past harm.” As to the medical professionals, the court indicated that allegations relating to their reputations “due to the damage done to the profession by the increasing evidence that the FDA has not been assuring that vaccines which these professionals have administered … are safe,” was nothing more than “a generalized grievance on behalf of the medical community.” Such generalized grievances are not judicially cognizable and do not satisfy the U.S. Supreme Court’s requirement for “specific, concrete facts demonstrating a particularized injury.”
The court granted FDA’s motion to dismiss the complaint.