A coroner has recommended that the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) continues its investigations into the side effects of ‘Copaxone’ (Glatiramer Acetate),a drug commonly used in the management of multiple sclerosis.

The recommendation follows the death of Elaine Quinn, a 40-year-old mother of two, who suffered an anaphylactic shock in her home at Ross, Castlebar, Co. Mayo, on February 12, 2022, and died three days later in Mayo University Hospital (MUH).

After returning an open verdict at an inquest in Swinford today (Monday), Pat O’Connor, the Coroner for the District of Mayo said the HPRA should continue its investigations into the drug and inform the public and medical profession of its findings.

The medical cause of Mrs. Quinn’s death was acute fatal cerebral ischeamia and anaphylactic shock.

Geraldine Maloney, Consultant Anaesthetist at Mayo University Hospital, gave evidence to today’s hearing that Mrs. Quinn  was admitted on February 9, 2022 to intensive care  following an out of hospital cardiac arrest.

Over the course of the day, she was commenced on antiviral, antiobiotics, antiepileptic and steroid medication but three days later she passed away.

Dr. Donal Tighe, Consultant Gastroenterologist and General Physician at MUH, told today’s hearing that collateral history from Elaine’s family indicated that shortly after taking Copaxone for her multiple sclerosis she collapsed and an ambulance was called.

Dr. Tighe said that in light of the fact that Mrs. Quinn collapsed shortly after receiving the drug it was possible it (the drug) was the cause of the anaphylactic shock.

He said that on reviewing the medical literature there were some rare case reports of anaphylactic reactions to GA on patients who had been well established on the treatment.

“I couldn’t find any case reports of any fatalities associated with such anaphylactic reactions.

“It is possible that this (injection of GA) triggered an anaphylactic reaction that led to a catastrophic anoxic brain injury that Mrs. Quinn unfortunately did not recover from”.

In correspondence to the coroner read into evidence at today’s hearing, In a letter to the coroner read to the hearing, consultant Neurologist Dr. Michael J. Hennessy said Glatiramer acetate has been commonly used in the management of multiple sclerosis for more than twenty years.

“Overall it would be regarded as an extremely safe form of MS immunomodulatory treatment”, he stated.

“Therefore it is surprising and shocking to hear that it may have triggered anaphylaxis in this patient.”

Continuing in his letter to the coroner, Dr. Hennesy said temporal association between the patient’s collapse and the injection is certainly suggestive of a causative effect.

 The letter added: “Such a reaction must be considered to be extremely rare and probably idiosyncratic reaction to the drug.

“I can certainly find no prior examples of anaphylaxis causing death in a patient on this form of treatment”.
At the conclusion of the inquest, having returned an open verdict,  Coroner O’Connor said there are certainly lessons to  be learned from the death of the young mother. 


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