Wirral MP calls for redress for families affected by Primodos drug

Margaret Greenwood MP has spoken out in parliament about the urgent need for the government to implement the recommendations of a 2018 report and provide redress for those people affected by the drug Primodos.

Primodos is a Hormone Pregnancy Test (HPT) drug taken by pregnant women between the 1950s and the 1970s which it is believed led to children being born with serious birth defects.  

The Wirral West MP paid tribute to the courage of those affected. 

Despite warnings in the late 1950s that HPTs, including Primodos, could cause abnormalities in a developing baby, and further studies in the 1960s and early 1970s which suggested a link between the use of HPTs and a wide range of serious birth defects, it wasn’t until 1975 that the Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM) recommended that they should no longer be used. 

However, it has been reported that Primodos sometimes continued to be used as a pregnancy test within the NHS until it was withdrawn from the market by the manufacturer in 1978. 

Legal proceedings by the affected families began, but were discontinued in the early 1980s. It wasn’t until early 2014, and the discovery of documents from the 1960s that reportedly showed that studies suggested that HPTs caused miscarriages and congenital abnormalities, that a new campaign called for an independent public inquiry into them. 

In 2017, a review by an Expert Working Group found that the evidence it looked at did not support a causal association between the use of HPTs such as Primodos and birth defects or miscarriage. However, the methodology and findings of that review have been disputed by academics and are inconsistent with other academic reviews. 

One of those other reviews, undertaken by a group of researchers at the University of Oxford, concluded that, “The evidence of an association (between HPTs and birth defects) has previously been deemed weak, and previous litigation and reviews have been inconclusive. However, we believe that this systematic review shows an association of oral HPTs with congenital malformations.” 

In 2018, the government announced an Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review, to be led by Baroness Cumberlege. Despite the Cumberlege Review’s finding that Primodos caused avoidable harm, and the clear recommendation for redress for those affected, the government has not acted on this. 

Speaking after the debate, Margaret Greenwood MP said, “I pay tribute to the families of children who were born with birth defects after their pregnant mothers took Primodos for the courage that they have shown. 

“In their fight for justice, they have suffered setback after setback, but still they fight on; it was good to see so many MPs speaking out in support of them.  

“Some of the adverse impacts that affected individuals and families have attributed to hormone pregnancy test use include congenital heart defects, dysmorphic facial features such as cleft palate and lip, digestive system and bowel issues, intellectual disability, limb defects and, tragically, death. 

“What those affected and their families have been through is truly heartbreaking. 

“The fact that the government has not acted upon the recommendations of the Cumberlege Review is a grave injustice and an insult to those who have suffered.  

“The government must fully implement the recommendations in the Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review and set up a redress fund for those affected by Primodos as a matter of urgency.” 

Image: Juan Encalada

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