Lancaster MP welcomes landmark ruling on three NHS scandals that caused 'intense suffering' to patients for decades

Janet Williams from Pilling has campaigned for recognition that Sodium Valproate prescribed to and taken by pregnant women led to serious and distressing neuro-developmental conditions in their children.

By Nick Lakin
Wednesday, 8th July 2020, 4:40 pm
Cat Smith and Janet Williams.
Cat Smith and Janet Williams.

A review into concerns over the anti-epilepsy drug, along with the use of pelvic mesh implants, and hormone pregnancy test Primodos concluded patients had come to "avoidable harm".

Ms Smith, the chair of the all-party group campaigning for justice on Sodium Valporate in pregnancy, said she is relieved patients have finally been listened to following Baroness Cumberlege’s review of Medicines and Medical Devices Safety.

She said: “All those affected by harmful medicines and medical devices have been waiting far too long for this moment, but justice is finally near, thanks to a tireless campaigning effort.

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“Baroness Cumberlege has overseen the development of an excellent report, and its recommendations can make a difference for medicines and medical device safety.

"It must now be followed by action.

"The Government needs to immediately apologise on behalf of the healthcare system to all the families who have been affected by Sodium Valproate, Primodos and pelvic mesh and set up a taskforce to implement the recommendations.”

Sodium Valproate is used to treat epilepsy and bi-polar and has brand names including Epilim, Episenta, Epival.

It is available on prescription from the NHS.In the report Baroness Cumberledge wrote: "I have conducted many reviews and inquiries over the years, but I have never encountered anything like this; the intensity of suffering experienced by so many families, and the fact that they have endured it for decades.

"Much of this suffering was entirely avoidable, caused and compounded by failings in the health system itself."

Janet Williams from Pilling has campaigned for decades for recognition that Sodium Valproate prescribed to and taken by pregnant women led to serious and distressing neurodevelopmental conditions in their children.

Her own two children were born with health problems after she was prescribed the drug.

She said: “This drug has been prescribed since 1973 and whilst our concerns continued to be dismissed thousands of children went on to be born with birth defects because their mothers were unaware of the risk.

“I’m delighted by the findings of this review – but it has taken too long for us to get here. I hope lessons are learnt.”

Ms Smith first met Janet Williams within weeks of becoming an MP and has worked alongside Janet and others to get justice for them and the thousands of families around the country affected.

She added: “At first I found it really difficult to get my head around the fact that drugs were still being prescribed to women that could cause birth defects.

“I thought that the thalidomide scandal that I’d read about in history books had put an end to that kind of scandal happening again.

"It was a real shock to realise that Sodium Valproate had led to around 20,000 babies being born in the UK with birth defects.

"I’m in awe of the energy and persistence Janet and other campaigners have shown in fighting to be heard. This must never happen again.”