Mum's call for the truth about hormone drug

40-year fight to see if pregnancy testing pill affected son's heart

Campaign - Sheila Harvey with a photo of her son

Raymond as a tot in hospital

First published in South Essex news by

A MOTHER is backing a campaign for a public inquiry into the use of a pregnancy testing drug which is alleged to have caused terrible deformities in children.

Sheila Harvey was one of thousands of women in the Sixties and Seventies who were prescribed the super strength hormone pill Primodos, which has subsequently been blamed for children being born with underdeveloped limbs and facial deformities as well as other medical problems.

Mrs Harvey, 71, of Green Lane, Eastwood, believes her son Raymond, now 46, who was born with severe heart and artery defects, was one of those affected.

She is now hopeful of finding out whether Primodos did harm him as Prime Minister David Cameron has vowed to release all medical files relating to the drug.

Mrs Harvey said: “I have been fighting this for 40 years. I am angry. How can you forgive people that caused deformities in young children, knowing that they should never have prescribed the drug in the first place?

“I just want anyone who was affected to come forward and join the campaign. There must be a public inquiry into this.

They should never have given this drug consent.”

Mrs Harvey took two of the pills during pregnancy, but had no idea of the consequences. She said: “We didn’t realise there was anything wrong with Raymond until he was three months old. I took him to have his inoculations and the doctor raised concerns. He was sent to Great Ormond Street Hospital and they said he wouldn’t have survived to six months if he hadn’t been taken in.

“He only had one heart ventricle and the main arteries to his heart were the wrong way round. They said as he lay in his cot his heart was under the same pressure as a child that was running.

They fixed the arteries, but there was nothing they could do about the ventricle at that time.”

Raymond underwent five major operations throughout his childhood, including pioneering surgery at Great Ormond Street Hospital when he was 14, which successfully repaired his heart.

Despite a set back two years later when a stitch leaked and had to be repaired, he recovered physically, but the surgery wasn’t without consequences.

The normally outgoing youngster suffered emotionally and Mrs Harvey’s marriage broke down under the strain.

Raymond, who only grew to 5ft tall and still wears children’s clothes, now lives with his father in Bath, after living with his mum until the age of 22.

Campaigners who formed the Association for Children Damaged by Hormone Pregnancy Testing were given a ray of hope in July when Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi raised the issue in Parliament.

Mr Cameron has promised to release the medical files and the association was due to meet with Secretary of State William Hague today.

HOW PRIMADOS WAS USED

PRIMODOS was prescribed to women who had stopped menstruating.

If they did not begin a period after taking two of the pills they were deemed to be pregnant.

The pills contained norethisterone and ethinylestradiol, hormones later used in the morning after pill.

One Primodos tablet however, was the equivalent of 13 morning after pills and 157 oral contraceptive pills.

Research discovered many women suffered instant miscarriages.

Others gave birth to babies with missing limbs, brain damage and heart defects. A side effects warning from drug company, Schering, now Bayer, was distributed to doctors in 1975, yet it remained on the market until 1978, when it was withdrawn without explanation.

Despite research and attempted legal action, there is still no proven link between the drug and deformities, but campaigners say new evidence has emerged of existence of letters by medical experts acknowledging the drug’s risks as early as 1967, which had been sealed in the National Archives.

A spokesman for Bayer said: “Bayer denies Primodos was responsible for causing any deformities in children.

“UK litigation in respect of Primodos, 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 there was no realistic possibility of showing Primodos caused the congenital abnormalities alleged.

“Since the discontinuation of legal action in the UK 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 use of Primidos and the occurrence of congenital abnormalities.

“Based on the facts and on the law, Bayer does not accept that Primodos was responsible for causing any congenital abnormalities.”

 

‘THE FORGOTTEN THALIDOMIDE’

THE controversy over the effects of Primodos has been dubbed “the forgotten Thalidomide”.

Thalidomide was given to pregnant women between 1958 and 1961 to counter the effects of morning sickness.

It was linked to 10,000 birth defects worldwide, characterised by malformed limbs.

An 11-year legal battle ended in 1973 when Distillers, the British company which marketed the German-made drug, agreed to pay £20million in compensation.

In 2010, the Government apologised to Thalidomide victims, many of whom were born without arms and legs.

 

 

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