I have raised the plight of a constituent’s daughter during a parliamentary debate about the use of a pregnancy test drug that could have caused disabilities in unborn babies.
Speaking in a debate last week, I told MPs about Beccy Ilkes, whose mother Helen is from Stourbridge.
Helen went to a GP in 1970 to find out if she was pregnant and was given a drug called Primodos – that the doctor said was suitable for a young woman to take.
Beccy was born in 1970 and, at first, she appeared to develop normally but then as time went on that was not the case.
Beccy has never walked and has always been wheelchair dependent. She has curvature of the spine and some deformation of her hands and feet. These problems are worsening as she gets older. Her mental impairments are very severe…She has very limited speech, though it is believed she understands much more than she is capable of expressing. This can be very frustrating, and she is often reduced to very distressing screaming sessions.
She has been subjected to innumerable tests and procedures, including full genetic screening. There has been no explanation or cause for her impairments. Primodos is the only common denominator.
I explained that Beccy lives in a residential home with 24-hour care but comes home to her family regularly even though her condition is deteriorating.
It is also very distressing for her mum, who is terrified about what will happen to Beccy when she is not around. I have nothing but admiration for Beccy’s family.
I explained the family wanted justice for Beccy through an independent review. The first warning signs that Primodos can cause damage to the foetus in the early stages of pregnancy were raised in 1958.
Many more warnings were forwarded to the Committee on Safety of Medicines, the UK regulator, from 1958 to 1967. All those warnings were suppressed by the committee and Primodos remained on the market until 1978- 20 years after the first warning was received by the UK regulator.
These families want a fair hearing, and I believe they deserve one. I support the family 100% in their call for the UK regulator to stop protecting the drug companies and start protecting women and children.
Not only has Beccy been robbed of a normal life; the effect on the family has been all-consuming.”
Primodos was a tablet given to patients by their GP as a pregnancy test. It was 40 times the strength of an oral contraceptive today.
Legal action against the drug’s manufacturers Bayer/Schering are likely to continue, the debate was told.