A French appeals court has ordered drug giant Glaxo SmithKline (GSK) to pay US$6686 and $10,697, respectively, as compensation to two women who developed multiple sclerosis (MS) after receiving the hepatitis B vaccine, Engerix B.
The women, both nurses, were vaccinated as part of a massive government immunisation campaign in 1994, aimed especially at health workers. The campaign was halted in 1998 when it became apparent that recipients of the vaccine were developing MS like symptoms.
A first court judgement found no link between the vaccine and MS, but the appeals court found that, even in the absence of absolute scientific proof, there was evidence of risk that could not be ignored. More judgements are expected since the French campaign was stopped, 170 patients have filed lawsuits against GSK and Aventis Pasteur, the two main producers of the vaccine in France (Lancet, 2001; 357: 1598).