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Irish mums believe that drug caused birth defects


Primodos was used as a way of detecting pregnancy

Primodos was used as a way of detecting pregnancy

Primodos was used as a way of detecting pregnancy

Irish mothers believe their babies were left with abnormalities as a result of a hormonal pregnancy test drug, which is at the centre of a fresh scandal.

Primodos, also marketed as Duogynon, was introduced in the 1960s as a method of detecting pregnancy by drugs manufacturer Schering.

While it was never licensed for use in Ireland, and despite a warning issued in 1975 to all doctors, some expectant mums still took the pills until 1978 when it was removed from the UK market.

Chair of the Association for Children Damaged by Hormone Pregnancy Tests in the UK Marie Lyon told the Irish Independent that the drug was still taken in high numbers until it was taken off the market.

There is a possibility the drugs may also have been used in Ireland as an abortive agent, she claimed.

"Unfortunately it may have been used for a purpose it wasn't intended for but there were other women who used it as a genuine hormone test who were told it was safe," she said.

Ms Lyon has been campaigning, along with other families, for years in a bid to secure an apology from the manufacturer.

Her own daughter Sarah was born 47 years ago with one of her arms not fully formed.

The pill was a high dose of hormones that, it was assumed, a pregnant woman would be able to absorb. Meanwhile, a woman who was not pregnant would have menstruation triggered.

There were two pills and the drug was given to millions of women around the world.

The concentration of hormones would later be used in the morning after pill, in much, much smaller doses.

The drugs are the focus of a Sky Atlantic documentary called 'Primodos: The Forgotten Drug Scandal'.

Reporter Jason Farrell, who was granted access to national archives in Germany, has found evidence that UK officials were aware of a possible link between the drug and abnormalities.

The Irish Independent has learned that the drug was reported to the National Drugs Advisory Board (NDAB) in Ireland by mothers who suspected it had led to abnormalities in their children.

"Between 1976 and 1980 five reports of adverse reactions associated with use of Duogynon were received by the National Drugs Advisory Board (NDAB), a predecessor of the HPRA, describing suspected congenital abnormalities, with very limited information available in relation to these reports," the HPRA confirmed.

The company behind the pills, which operated a plant in Rathdrum, Co Wicklow, has now been taken over by pharmaceutical giant Bayer.

Bayer has consistently denied that the drug had any role to play in subsequent abnormalities. A statement said: "Based on the facts and on the law, Bayer does not accept that Primodos was responsible for causing congenital abnormalities."

Irish Independent