Solicitors to begin legal action over narcolepsy link to vaccine

Solicitors will shortly serve legal proceedings on the State on behalf of six adult narcolepsy victims who developed the condition after receiving the Pandemrix swine flu vaccine.

One Wicklow-based solicitor is representing up to 35 narcolepsy sufferers, many of them children. They all want to take cases against the State, the HSE, the Department of Health, and GlaxoSmithKlline over the scandal.

The solicitor, Michael Boylan, described the effects of the Pandemrix jab as a “health scandal and disaster”. He said that so far, the Government has taken a “head-in-the-sand” approach to the narcolepsy scandal and has only made a “tacit acknowledgement” of the side effects by distributing temporary medical cards to those affected. He is calling for a redress scheme.

Adults affected by the swine flu vaccine have two years from date of narcolepsy diagnosis to issue medical negligence proceedings against the State. They have three years to start proceedings against the drug’s manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, for sale of a defective product.

Children diagnosed have until they are 20 to issue proceedings against the State.

Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological disorder that leads to sleep deprivation, causing excessive daytime sleepiness. It is usually accompanied by cataplexy, sudden episodes of muscle weakness triggered by strong emotions such as laughter or anger.

Earlier this week a class action was launched against GSK in Britain on behalf of 38 narcolepsy sufferers, including 19 children.

Studies in Sweden, Finland, Ireland, and Britain have found the risk of developing narcolepsy is between seven and 13 times higher in children who were immunised with Pandemrix than in those who were not. GSK says it accepts the evidence of a statistical link with the vaccine but wants more research into whether the vaccine or any of its ingredients are implicated in actually causing narcolepsy. The European Medicines’s Agency say questions around the safety of an adjuvant used to boost the efficacy of the vaccine — AS03 — remain only suspicions at present.

Meanwhile, Irish families have joined a European alliance formed to ratchet up the fight for adequate state support for the hundreds of children who developed the chronic sleep disorder having received the vaccine as part of a national immunisation programme.


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