Campaigning Wigan mum's "profound disappointment" as hormone pregancy test claims thrown out by High Court judge

Damages claims by more than 170 people who say they were affected by hormone pregnancy test drugs have been brought to an end by a High Court judge.
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The drugs, including Primodos, were given to women to test if they were pregnant from the 1950s until the late 1970s and are alleged to have been responsible for serious birth defects.

A group of 172 claimants, led by Wigan mum Marie Lyon, brought legal action against Bayer Pharma, Schering Health Care, Aventis Pharma and the Government in a bid for compensation.

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Lawyers for the drug companies and the Department for Health brought a bid to have the claims struck out at a hearing earlier this month, arguing the claimants have “no real prospect of success” at a trial.

Chair of the Association for Children Damaged by Hormone Pregnancy Tests Marie LyonChair of the Association for Children Damaged by Hormone Pregnancy Tests Marie Lyon
Chair of the Association for Children Damaged by Hormone Pregnancy Tests Marie Lyon
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The defendants argued there is no evidence of a “causal association” between the hormone pregnancy tests (HPTs) and the harm suffered by the claimants.

On Friday, Mrs Justice Yip ruled in favour of the defendants and struck out all the claims.

The judge said one of the claimants was barred from bringing legal action by a 1982 ruling of the then-Mr Justice Bingham in previous litigation over HPTs, while the others were not, but she had decided that none of the claims could continue.

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She said in her ruling: “Although I have not treated the order of Bingham J as applying to the other claimants, the history of the previous litigation provides the context in which I have considered the defendants’ application to strike their claims out as an abuse of process.

“This litigation is an attempt to relitigate the issues that were considered in the earlier litigation which failed because a causal association could not be established between HPTs and foetal harm.

“Having carefully considered the material placed before me, I conclude that the position has not materially changed in the claimants’ favour.

“It would be manifestly unfair to the defendants to require them to incur further substantial costs in defending this action.

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“Further, it is not in the interests of the claimants to maintain the litigation in circumstances where there is no viable plan to progress the claims and no real prospect of success.

“I am driven to the conclusion that the proceedings are an abuse of process and that the only appropriate response is to strike out the claims.

“It follows that the proceedings as a whole will be struck out.”

Lawyers for the claimants said in court documents for the earlier hearing that they regarded the evidence being relied on by the defendants as “unconvincing”.

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The claimants contended they had evidence, were gathering further evidence from experts, and that the process was ongoing.

Primodos first became available in the UK in 1959, with a user taking a pill on two consecutive days, and if women had a “withdrawal bleed” a few days later this meant they were not pregnant.

It was withdrawn from the market in 1978 after concern that it may have been responsible for congenital malformations, miscarriages and stillbirth in some cases, the court was previously told.

In a statement after the ruling, Ms Lyon, chairwoman of the Association for Children Damaged by Hormone Pregnancy Tests (ACDHPT), said the claimants would discuss next steps with their legal advisors.

Ms Lyon, from Wigan, whose daughter Sarah Wilson was born in 1970 with a severe limb deformity, with half of her arm missing just below the elbow, said: “I am profoundly disappointed with the the judgment, but the result was not unexpected, after witnessing the aggressive defence by the Government and manufacturers’ legal teams.

“During the four-day hearing we observed the defendants placing Justice Yip under considerable pressure to strike out our claim.

“ We do not accept the defendants’ claim that there is not sufficient scientific evidence to prove the link to adverse effects.

“Additional scientific papers will be published shortly which will support the evidence contained in our skeleton argument.

“Our families feel bitterly let down by our Government, who have added their support to a German pharmaceutical company and a flawed expert working group report supported by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

“It is another bump in the long road to justice, but it won’t derail our journey, just delay it.

“My first priority is to reassure our families that the battle continues and to remember that justice will be served, just not today.

“I will be speaking with our legal advisors to discuss next steps to ensure we are able to expose the evidence of harm caused by these synthetic hormones.”