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Primodos scandal: Government should consider ‘redress’ for victims, Theresa May says

The government should consider “redress” for the victims of pregnancy test drug Primodos, Theresa May has told Sky News.

In an exclusive interview, the former prime minister heavily criticised the health regulation system that also allowed people to suffer with another drug, sodium valproate, and the medical product, vaginal mesh.

Primodos – packed with hormones – was given to women in the 1960s and 1970s.

Many parents believe it damaged the foetus in the womb, leaving children with life-changing malformations.

There has been a 40-year campaign for recognition of its potential dangers.

Mrs May praised campaigners, who had been “beating their head against a brick wall of the state”, she said.

She also criticised former governments and healthcare professionals who she said had tried to “stop them in their tracks… saying that ‘you didn’t really suffer’ despite the fact that there was obvious evidence”.

In an interview for Sky News documentary Bitter Pill, she said: I think it’s important that the government looks at the whole question of redress and about how that redress can be brought up for people. They’ve had an apology and that’s important, but obviously, lives have suffered as a result.”

It comes after an independent review, instigated by the former PM two years ago, found last month that government health regulators had failed patients.

Epilepsy drug sodium valproate can cause damage to unborn babies, while vaginal mesh surgery has left some women with debilitating and chronic pain.

In a Sky News documentary which investigates Primodos, Mrs May explained why in 2018 she ordered a second review into the drug.

She said: “I almost felt it was sort of women being patted on head and being told ‘there there dear’, don’t worry. You’re imagining it. You don’t know. We know better than you do.”

She cited her concerns after reading the conclusions of a previous scientific review overseen by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency in 2017, which claimed evidence did not support a causal association between Primodos and congenital malformations.

Mrs May said: “Certainly, when I looked at the report, I felt that it wasn’t the slam dunk answer that people said it was.”

She added: “At one point it says that they could not find a causal association between Primodos and congenital anomalies, but neither could they categorically say that there was no causal link.”

Mrs May asked her then health secretary Jeremy Hunt to call a new investigation, and on 8 July the Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review, led by Baroness Cumberlege, concluded there had been “avoidable harm” caused by Primodos and the other two products, sodium valproate and vaginal mesh.

The review team said both the state and the manufacturer had “an ethical responsibility” to fund a financial scheme for “those harmed” to help them with the cost of care.

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