A fourteen-year old school girl had died shortly after receiving GlaxoSmithKline’s cervical cancer jab Cervarix under the current national immunisation programme.

Natalie Morton reportedly received the first shot of the vaccine yesterday morning at the Blue Coat Church of England School in Coventry but was taken ill soon after and died at Coventry University Hospital at lunchtime.

Although the exact cause of death is yet to be determined, the batch of vaccine has been quarantined by NHS Coventry and an investigation has been launched to determine whether Natalie suffered an extreme reaction to the jab or the whether the vaccine was somehow contaminated, particularly after reports that other girls at the school suffered mild side-effects including nausea and vomiting.

Dr Pim Kon, medical director at GSK UK, said in a statement that the firm is “working with the Department of Health and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency to better understand this case, as at this stage the exact cause of this tragic death is unknown”, and the company also stressed that more than 1.4 million doses of Cervarix have already been adminstered in the UK.

A national immunisation programme is currently underway in Britain to immunise all schoolgirls aged 12 and 13 against the two strains of human papilloma virus that are the most common cause of cervical cancer, and while similar programmes are in force around the globe the majority of countries seem to have favoured Merck & Co’s rival jab Gardasil over Cervarix.

"This again raises the question which we have asked for some time, as to why the government won't publish the assessments it made of the relative merits of the two HPV vaccines and why we therefore use a different vaccine to most other comparable countries," shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley told BBC News Online.

Last week Boots UK announced that it has rolled out its very own cervical cancer vaccination service in 134 of its stores across England and Wales, offering women who are not eligible for Cervarix on the NHS the chance to better protect themselves from the disease.

Zunrisa/Rezonic development dropped
In further bad news for GSK, the group announced this morning that is withdrawing regulatory filings for Zunrisa/Rezonic (casopitant), which was in development for chemotherapy-induced and post-operative nausea and vomiting.

According to the firm, after regulatory consultation it emerged that “significant further safety data” would be required to support the drug’s registration on a worldwide basis, which, it said, would take “a considerable time to produce”.

GSK already markets Zofran (ondansetron) to prevent nausea and vomiting caused by surgery or cancer medicines but clinical data showed that adding Rezonic to the former and dexamethasone significantly reduces chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting compared with Zofran and dexamethasone alone.