GSK Flu Shot Linked To Narcolepsy, Researchers Confirm

A GSK flu shot has been linked to cases of narcolepsy in children, a new study confirms, and the GlaxoSmithKline H1N1 vaccine may have caused a significant increase in instances of the disorder.

The UK study on the GSK flu shot indicates that the increase in narcolepsy could be steep. Published in BMJ and summarized by MedPageToday, the study observed the link but researchers have yet to learn how it may have occurred — the site explains:

“Vaccination was associated with a 14- to 16-fold increase in likelihood of developing the chronic sleep disorder, Elizabeth Miller, MBBS, of the Health Protection Agency in London, and colleagues reported online in BMJ.”

The study on the GSK flu shot and narcolepsy involves an AS03-adjuvanted vaccine for the prevention of H1N1 known as Pandemrix, and estimates suggest one case of narcolepsy from every 57,000 or so doses may have resulted. Thirty million doses of Pandemrix were administered during the H1N1 flu pandemic between 2009 and 2010.

MedPageToday spoke with William Schaffner, MD, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University in Nashville about the study on GSK’s flu shot and narcolepsy risk. Schaffner said:

“So of course, the question is could it have been something associated with this adjuvant that induced narcolepsy in at least some children and adolescent… [however,] this has given all of us who are interested in pandemic preparedness a bit of a pause.”

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A spokesman for GlaxoSmithKline said of the flu shot narcolepsy link:

“We really want to get to the bottom of this and understand more about the potential role of Pandemrix in the development of narcolepsy.”

Studies in other European countries appear to support the GSK flu shot narcolepsy risk.