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Mother searches for answers as inquiry is launched into disabilities caused by pregnancy tests

PUBLISHED: 09:00 31 July 2015 | UPDATED: 13:21 04 August 2015

Christine Williams who believes her daughter Helen was born with severe brain damage and epilepsy because of two pregnancy test pills she was prescribed in the 1960s.
Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

Christine Williams who believes her daughter Helen was born with severe brain damage and epilepsy because of two pregnancy test pills she was prescribed in the 1960s. Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

A mother who believes her daughter’s disability was caused by pregnancy test tablets is urging people to back a campaign set up to highlight alleged failings by pharmaceutical companies.

Christine Williams, 85, of Brundall, believes tablets she took back in the 1960s caused her daughter, Helen, to be born epileptic and with severe brain damage.

“Two little pills caused a lifetime of problems,” she claimed.

Campaign group the Association for Children Damaged by Hormone Pregnancy Tests has successfully lobbied the government to set up an inquiry thanks to mid-Norfolk MP George Freeman, minister for life sciences.

The inquiry will examine the use of oral pregnancy tests such as Primodos and Amenorone Forte.

Link between tests and birth deformities is denied

A spokesman for Bayer, which manufactered Primodos, said: “Bayer sympathise with individuals who face physical difficulties in their daily lives, but denies that Primodos which, until 1970, was recommended for use as a hormone pregnancy test, was responsible for causing any deformities in children.

“In respect of Primodos, UK litigation against Schering (which is now owned by Bayer), ended in 1982 when the claimants’ legal team, with the approval of the court, decided to discontinue the litigation on the grounds that there was no realistic possibility of showing that Primodos caused the congenital abnormalities their children suffered.

“Since the discontinuation of the legal action in 1982, no new scientific knowledge has been produced which would call into question the previous assessment that there was no link between the use of Primodos and the occurrence of congenital abnormalities.”

Amenorone Forte was made by French company Roussel which is now part of the pharmaceutical company Sanofi.

A spokesman for Sanofi said: “We are in contact with the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority regarding their independent review by experts of the evidence relating to any potential adverse effects with hormone pregnancy tests.”

Marie Lyon, chairman of the campaign, said there were 25,000 tablets given to doctors to try on women in the 1960s.

She said many women went on to miscarry or give birth to disabled children.

The review, which is expected to be completed by the beginning of next year, is not a political inquiry intended to demonstrate liability.

It will examine the evidence to see if there are grounds for accepting a link between the use of hormone pregnancy tests and the conditions experienced by some patients.

Mr Freeman said: “I understand the concern felt by those who believe their children may have been affected by the use of Primodos.

“We must always look closely when such concerns are raised and that is why I asked the Medicine and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to conduct a clinical review of the historic data on this issue.”

Mrs Williams took two pills of Amenorone Forte in 1965.

She said: “We had all sorts of difficulties with Helen growing up, but we had to try to lead as happy a life as possible.

She said she had two other children who were fit and healthy when she had not taken the pills.

“Doctors told me they were perfectly safe,” Mrs Williams said.

Helen now receives supported living in Essex.

For more information on the campaign visit www.hormonepregnancytests.org.uk/

Did you take hormone pregnancy test pills? 
Contact our health correspondent by emailing nicholas.carding@archant.co.uk

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