NEWS SCAN: H1N1 vaccine and adult narcolepsy, TB drug shortage, ricin arrest

May 23, 2013

Finnish study suggests GSK H1N1 vaccine raised narcolepsy risk in adults
A study by Finland's National Institute for Health and Welfare found that vaccination with Pandemrix, GlaxoSmithKline's 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine, increased the risk of narcolepsy in adults, not just children, according to a Reuters report today. The institute said an analysis of hospital and primary care data showed that adults aged 20 to 64 who received the vaccine were three to five times more likely to experience narcolepsy than those who didn't receive it, Reuters reported. A number of previous studies have found a link between the vaccine and an increased risk of narcolepsy in several European countries, primarily but not exclusively in children. A large, multicountry study released last January showed an increased risk in vaccinated adults in Denmark, and previous studies suggested a similar link in France and Ireland. The vaccine, which contains the adjuvant AS03, was the most commonly one used in Europe during the 2009 flu pandemic.
May 23 Reuters story
Jan 30 CIDRAP News story on multicountry study

Survey: Shortage left health departments struggling to secure TB drug
A shortage of a key tuberculosis (TB) drug left close to 80% of state and local health departments struggling to secure supplies earlier this year, and it isn't over yet, according to a report today from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The shortage of isoniazid (INH) 300-mg tablets began in November 2012, says an article in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). In January 2013 the National Tuberculosis Controllers Association conducted a survey of the shortage's effects on the 50 state health departments and 18 other jurisdictions. The departments in 38 states and four large cities responded. The survey showed that 79% of the respondents had trouble procuring INH in the previous month. Fifteen percent had run out of the drug, and another 41% expected to run out within a month. Because of the shortage, 69% of the programs were changing INH suppliers, 68% were delaying treatment of latent TB infection (LTBI), and 88% were changing their LTBI regimens. The report says sporadic shortages of second-line TB drugs have occurred for several years, but this is the first major shortage of a first-line medication. One of the three INH manufacturers, VersaPharm, will not resume producing INH until 2014, leaving two companies in the market. The latter resumed supplying limited quantities of the drug in February, but the shortage has continued to affect TB programs, the CDC says. The article describes various steps that have been taken or are being considered to address the shortage in the short and long terms.
May 24 MMWR article

Suspect arrested in ricin mailings in Washington state
A 37-year-old janitor and registered sex offender has been arrested for sending letters containing the poison ricin and threatening to kill a federal judge, the Associated Press (AP) reported today. Matthew Ryan Buquet remained in jail today after pleading not guilty yesterday in federal court to a charge of mailing a threatening communication. Little information was available about Buquet, who lives near downtown Spokane and is originally from Bogota, Colombia, the AP report said. Yesterday's grand jury indictment accused Buquet of mailing a death threat to US District Judge Fred Van Sickle in Spokane on May 14. The indictment did not mention ricin, but the FBI said yesterday that the letter sent to the judge contained "active ricin toxin," according to the story. The US Postal Service said last week that two letters were intercepted in Spokane that contained ricin in a crude form that did not pose an immediate threat to workers.
May 23 AP story

This week's top reads