Theresa May announces review into drugs 'with dangerous side-effects'

Posted On: 
21st February 2018

Theresa May has announced a review into how three medications came to be used by NHS doctors despite patients reporting dangerous side effects.

The announcement is a major victory for campaigners

The Prime Minister made the announcement at PMQs as part of a reply to a question about what could be done to help the victims of Primodos, a German drug prescribed by GPs as a pregnancy test to more than one and a half million women some decades ago.

Users in the 60s and 70s were told the drug would trigger a period if they were not pregnant, but it allegedly caused miscarriages and physical abnormalities in the unborn child.

Former Minister: Theresa May was misled over review into pregnancy drugs linked to birth defects

Ms May said she had been moved by the stories victims told after she met them personally as part of cross-party attempt to bring campaigners some justice.

“I have been clear that we need to do better. I was very struck by the powerful stories I heard. We do need to see a faster, more understanding response to patients when they raise concerns,” she said.

An announcement by the Health Secretary swiftly followed in which he promised the publication of “a landmark report” on extent of medication errors in modern healthcare systems and the NHS' plan to tackle them.

Jeremy Hunt turned his immediate attention to Primodos, anti-epilepsy drug Soidum Valproate and vaginal mesh and the problems they had allegedly caused patients.

Evidence suggested Sodium Valproate could be responsible for causing autism in babies if taken by their mothers while pregnant, while vaginal mesh implants had left some women with life changing pain.

Mr Hunt has tasked Conservative former health minister Baroness Julia Cumberlege to look at the three cases and consider whether there is a case for a wider inquiry into the failings put forward by campaigners.

“We must acknowledge that the response to these issues from those in positions of authority has not always been good enough,” Mr Hunt said.

“Sometimes the actions felt overly focused on defending the status quo rather than addressing the needs of patients. As a result, patients and their families have spent too long feeling that they were not being listened to, making the agony of a complex medical situation even worse.”

The review will look at the speed at which authorities respond to complaints, whether regulators did enough to engage concerned patients and whether any cases require an independent system or public inquiry to be set up.

The review was met with support by MPs on both sides of the House.



However, some MPs were sceptical of the review. Labour's Yasmin Qureshi, the Chair of an APPG on Primodos, warned if the investigation did not consider an alleged cover-up, it would be "a waste of public money".