The United Kingdom has lagged behind some of its European neighbors in compensating people who developed narcolepsy after receiving GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) swine flu vaccine. While Finland agreed to pay out in 2011, the U.K. was still knocking back claimants in 2012. Now, though, the U.K. government is reportedly readying to pay 60 people $1.7 million each.
News of the compensation comes 6 months after U.K. welfare minister Iain Duncan Smith wrote that "on the balance of probability, vaccination has contributed to ... disablement." The acceptance of the likelihood of a link between GSK's Pandemrix and narcolepsy opened the door to claimants, but statutory compensation in the U.K. is capped at $200,000. A lawyer representing some of the 100 people has pushed for more, though, and according to The Sunday Times has succeeded. A payout of at least $1.7 million each is expected.
"There has never been a case like this before. The victims of this vaccine have an incurable and lifelong condition and will require extensive medication," Peter Todd, a lawyer who represented many of the claimants, told The Sunday Times. The majority of the cases involve children, but 6 healthcare workers are also seeking compensation. When swine flu was at its height in 2009, the U.K. National Health Service encouraged all frontline health workers to get vaccinated. By January 2010 one-third had received the shot.
Loss of earnings is expected to factor into compensation calculations for the 6 healthcare workers. GSK is protected from the claims by an indemnity clause in its contract with the government. The drugmaker thinks more evidence is needed to confirm what role the vaccine may have played in the development of narcolepsy.