MPs Challenge the EWG Report Findings in ref to Primodos and Hormone Pregnancy Tests

MPs attack “whitewash” report on hormone pregnancy test drugs

MP Justin Madders has written – twice – to the government, asking why the Primodos expert working group changed the conclusion of its controversial report.

A large number of MPs have challenged the findings of the EWG report, a government-led review which suggested the Primodos pregnancy test drug was not responsible for causing deformities to children.

I know the Minister very well. He is a passionate and caring Minister, but I am afraid that I disagree with many of the things he said this morning. The families do—I think, rightly—feel that the report is a whitewash. Material has been removed from the draft, and the group looked into matters that were not within its remit. The question of a causal link was not in its remit. The question was whether there was link with a drug that was often given to our constituents with no prescription: a drawer would be opened, and it would be handed out to them so that they could find out whether they were pregnant. An open inquiry was needed, but I am afraid that the families, and many Members who are present today, will not feel that that was what happened. Will the Minister please meet the families again, with members of the all-party group, and try to understand why they are so upset? Will the Minister please also watch last night’s report on Sky News, which exposes much of what has being going on over many Parliaments? No matter who was in government, Governments have ignored these people, and we cannot continue to do so.

Mike Penning,
Conservative, Hemel Hempstead

On Friday, two constituents came to my surgery to speak to me about exactly this. The mother had taken one of these pills and her daughter was born with deformities. This is not the Minister’s report—he is just giving his explanation and doing his job—but may I suggest that we have a proper Back-Bench debate in which we can exercise all these issues? With great respect to the working group, and having had some experience as a former public health Minister and knowing about contaminated blood, I am afraid to say that I smell something like a very large rat in all of this. I think that there have been cover-ups.

Anna Soubry,
Conservative, Broxtowe

My hon. Friend is clearly struggling to defend this position. I urge him to look at the scope of this review and all the evidence that was presented to it, as all the evidence that was available should be looked at and looked at again. Without that, many people across this country will not be satisfied that justice has been done.

Bob Blackman,
Conservative, Harrow East

It is my understanding that in the research on fish, the researcher was reluctant to submit the findings because they had not been peer-reviewed. Is the Minister confident that all the animal studies that were considered in this review were properly and adequately peer-reviewed? We now know there are many studies included that were not peer reviewed.

Liz McInnes,
Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)


Like Anna Soubry, I am reminded of the contaminated blood inquiry, which is ongoing. In 1975, the regulator knew that there was a potential 5:1 risk of the drug causing deformity. They told the manufacturers but not the patients, and papers were deliberately destroyed by the chief scientist. It is deeply worrying to the families that there is not an open and transparent investigation into this matter. Does the Minister know whether the Berlin archive papers were examined as part of this inquiry, because they demonstrate the cover-up that has happened over many years?

Madeleine Moon,
Chair, Defence Sub-Committee

I come to this having had no constituency involvement in this issue at all, but I have been listening to the exchanges this morning and it is quite clear that the level of concern on both sides of the House is sufficient for the Government to call a debate on the matter in Government time, so that all these issues can be properly explored.

Philip Hollobone,
Conservative, Kettering

Is the Minister aware of the study in 1979 from Primodos that concluded that the visceral malformations should be considered to be drug-related? The manufacturer seems to have made a link that does not appear to have been dealt with in the report. Does he acknowledge that serious concern is being expressed on both sides of the House about the transparency of this report and that it behoves us all to try to make it transparent and understandable and, above all, to get to the correct answer?

Martin Whitfield,
Labour, East Lothian

The report must be judged against the background of the fact that the thalidomide scandal involved only 20 birth defects in America and 2,000 in this country, that we are still misinforming and under-informing mothers and potential mothers about the valproate scandal and that GlaxoSmithKline was fined $3 billion for distorting the results of its research. The Minister must tell us how many members of the expert group are present or past employees of the pharmaceutical industry.

Paul Flynn,
Labour, Newport West

I have a constituent who has been affected by this issue, and they want justice. Based on what I have heard today, justice has fallen short in this case. In any normal circumstances, justice must not only be done, but it must be seen to be done. If the criteria have not been applied correctly, we would in normal circumstances have a review to get the correct decision in the end. Will the Minister look at the matter and get it reviewed?

Rehman Chishti,
Conservative, Gillingham and Rainham

Is the Minister aware that in all the years that I have been here, I have never heard of such a decision, particularly one made by this party, presented by a Minister of Health who is constantly telling us all about the Stafford inquiry and how important the last Stafford inquiry was? It is time that he considered the possibility of having this thing reviewed, bearing in mind that we are dealing with drug firms that have millions and millions of pounds. He should start all over again from the beginning. It will otherwise be a bad day for the Government if he is allowed to say what he has without listening to the people from both sides of the House who have rubbished the report.

Dennis Skinner,
Labour, Bolsover

As has been said, this is absolutely not a party matter. Colleagues have expressed their interest in a debate on this matter, and I can simply say from the Chair that, one way or the other, through one vehicle or another, this matter will be debated if Members want it to be debated.

John Bercow,
Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker’s Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee

House of Commons

Urgent Question: Hormone pregnancy tests,
Thursday 16 November 2017, check from 10:40 to 11:11 here.

UK Commission on Human Medicines

  • Report of the Commission on Human Medicines’ Expert Working Group on Hormone Pregnancy Tests,
  • Referral letter for genetic testing,
  • Press coverage,

More About Primodos

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