Law suits claim vaccine caused sleep disorder

A dozen law suits have been initiated against the State, the health minister and a pharmaceutical company by individuals who developed a chronic sleep disorder after receiving a vaccine to protect against swine flu.

Those suing allege personal injury, claiming they developed narcolepsy as a result of receiving the H1N1 pandemic vaccine. The vast majority received Pandemrix, manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline.

The information is contained in a briefing note to Health Minister Leo Varadkar, which says management of these cases has transferred to the State Claims Agency (SCA).

SOUND (Sufferers of Unique Narcolepsy Disorder), a lobby group seeking supports for families affected by vaccine-induced narcolepsy, now has upwards of 70 members affected by disorder, mainly children and adolescents.

Spokeswoman Máiréad Lawless, whose son developed the disorder, said they were seeking an urgent meeting with Mr Varadkar and Taoiseach Enda Kenny “to progress a package of supports, including compensation for members”.

Ms Lawless claimed some of the children who developed narcolepsy post-vaccine, including her son, were now showing signs of other neurological disorders

To date the State has provided victims with discretionary medical cards, reimbursement of medical expenses associated with diagnosis and treatment, home tuition and learning supports.

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 manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, for sale of a defective product.

Children diagnosed have until they are 18 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.

Millions of doses of Pandemrix were administered across Europe in 2009-10 as a response to the global H1N1 swine flu pandemic. More than 800 people, mainly children, developed narcolepsy after receiving Pandemrix.

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