Mum renews demand for pregnancy drug probe

By ruth.mckee@nlhnews.co.uk in

A MOTHER who has campaigned for government action on a pregnancy testing drug dubbed "the forgotten thalidomide" has stepped up her calls for an independent public inquiry.

Chris Gooch, 65, of Carnarvon Avenue, Enfield, was given the hormone pill Primodos by her doctor in June 1970 believing that it was a straightforward pregnancy test.

When her daughter Emma arrived early in 1971, she was born with some of her fingers and toes only partially developed.

Gradually, Ms Gooch began to make the connection between the pill she was given when she was pregnant and her daughter’s disability.

And last week she learned that the drug had been officially withdrawn as a pregnancy test in 1970 – the same year she had been given it.

According to a spokeswoman for Bayer (the company that now owns original manufacturer Schering) in 1970, manufacturers agreed with the authorities to stop recommending Primodos as a means of testing for pregnancy.

However, the drug continued to be licensed for use as a treatment for secondary amenorrhoea – a condition where menstruation stops in adult women.

The spokeswoman added that "any use of Primodos other than for the treatment of amenorrhoea not due to pregnancy would have been ’off-label’", meaning it was not sanctioned for any other purpose by the manufacturers.

Ms Gooch told the Advertiser: "It is disgusting. The drug companies say there is no clinical evidence that the drug caused deformities, but there is a huge amount of circumstantial evidence that it did."

Although the manufacturers agreed to stop recommending it as a pregnancy testing drug in 1970, it was not until 1975 that the Committee on Safety of Medicines, an independent advisory body to the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, concluded that there was "little justification" for the continued use of this type of pregnancy tests when alternative methods were available.

It was taken off the market in 1978.

Ms Gooch now wants answers about why it took eight years for the drug to be dropped.

"This is why we need an independent public inquiry," she said.

"The government clearly knew there were problems and they had a duty to make this issue public as soon as they knew that."

But Ms Gooch has praised Nick de Bois, her MP for Enfield North, for his work as vice-chairman of the newly-established All-Party Parliamentary Group on Primodos.

"He told me at the first meeting 18 MPs turned up – apparently that’s practically unheard of," she added.

"The fact that questions are finally being asked of government is a huge opportunity for us to finally get to the truth."

A spokeswoman for Bayer said: "Since the discontinuation of the legal action in 1982, no new scientific knowledge has been produced which would call into question the validity of the previous assessment of there being no link between the use of Primodos and the occurrence of such congenital abnormalities."

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