Narcolepsy in children is linked to flu vaccine

The pharmaceutical giant Glaxosmithkline (GSK) is under increasing pressure as another study confirms a link between its Pandemrix vaccine and the sleeping disorder narcolepsy.

The UK study confirmed that children given the vaccine during the 2009-10 flu pandemic were at a significantly higher risk of narcolepsy, which causes sudden daytime sleepiness and muscle weakness.

Around 30 million people received the Pandemrix vaccine in 47 countries between 2009/2010 in response to fears of an outbreak of the H1N1 swine flu virus. GSK has admitted that 795 people across Europe have developed narcolepsy since the vaccine’s introduction in 2009.

Whilst not proving a direct causal link, the UK study confirms similar findings in Ireland, Finland and Sweden. According to the BBC, some families are already considering a group legal action against the drug manufacturer.

Although the drug has not been licenced for use in the USA, the Center for Disease Control is conducting it’s own investigation into Pandemrix and has issued a safety warning recommending alternative treatments.

John Shneerson, co-author of the UK research is a consultant at the Respiratory Support and Sleep Centre at Papworth Hospital. Commenting on the findings he said ,”Pandemrix may have triggered an immune reaction against the sleep centre cells in those children who were genetically predisposed to develop narcolepsy. This study has been important in helping to shed light on the mechanism of how narcolepsy can develop,”

In response to the findings Glaxosmithkline is conducting it’s own investigation into the allegations.

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