Primodos / Duogynon

Press Release, Coalition against Bayer Dangers
May 12, 2009

Primodos victims demand apology from Bayer

Bayer Schering shareholder meeting in Duesseldorf today / Schering offered settlement in the seventies

Karl Murphy from Liverpool and Valerie Williams from London today will speak at Bayer´s shareholder meeting in Duesseldorf/Germany. They will demand that the company apologizes to Primodos victims and offers a compensation scheme. Attending will be Bayer´s board, supervisory board and about 4000 shareholders.

Known as 'the forgotten Thalidomide', Primodos was prescribed as a hormone pregnancy test in the sixties and seventies. Several thousand children were left with deformities after their mothers took Primodos. The drug was produced by the German company Schering which was taken over by the chemical and pharmaceutical producer Bayer in 2006.

Karl Murphy says in the meeting: “My life has been hell from birth, operation after operation to try to sort out the mess this drug has left me in. I would like to ask Bayer Schering today, why did you let this drug carry on being used when you were told that the deformity rate was increasing? Now that Schering has a new owner, it is the right moment to take a step towards us. The management has to help the victims who have been damaged by their actions.”

Valerie Williams, founder and former chairman of the ASSOCIATION FOR CHILDREN DAMAGED BY HORMONE PREGNANCY TESTING, says towards the Bayer board: “I am a mother of a son who suffered multiple abnormalities due to the fact that I was prescribed Primodos in 1974. When Primodos was first launched, Schering said that if a woman was pregnant in no way would the foetus be harmed. I ask you: What proof did you have in order to make such a claim? I urge the shareholders to unbolt the permanently shut blinkers of this drug company.” Williams was offered a settlement in 1978, four weeks ahead of founding the ASSOCIATION FOR CHILDREN DAMAGED BY HORMONE PREGNANCY TESTING. She rejected the offer due to Schering´s condition of confidentiality.

Each Primodos tablet was equivalent to approximately forty contraceptive pills. Already in 1967 the then Committee on Safety of Drugs was warned by a doctor - Dr. Isabel Gal - that foetal abnormalities were associated with the use of hormonal pregnancy testing. In the same year a new and easy method of confirming pregnancy had become available, measuring the level of hormones already present in the body by a simple urine test.

Two medical advisors from Schering Chemical Ltd in Britain were disturbed by Dr. Gal’s findings and examined the details of Primodos sales throughout the country. The Sunday Times later obtained a copy of a letter to Schering´s head office in which the advisors expressed their concern: “We must reach a decision regarding our own product Primodos and its possible relationship to foetal abnormalities. As manufacturers it is our moral duty to do all possible to ensure the safety of the preparations which we market.” The letter went on, “ethically speaking we are not satisfied that sufficient has been done to remove suspicion that has been cast upon Primodos to a sufficient degree, for us to be confident in supporting its continued availability to pregnant women in this country.”

Evidence continued to accumulate and in 1969 a survey by the Royal College of General Practitioners showed a higher incidence of miscarriages or natural abortions among women who had taken the pregnancy tests. Dr. Dean, who led the survey, recommended that Primodos be withdrawn from the market.

Roussel, the French manufacturer of Amenorone Forte, a drug similar to Primodos, removed it completely from the market as a valid test for pregnancy that year. However, the warnings were ignored by Schering´s head office. The management was primarily concerned with commercial gain, wanting to maintain their monopoly over the birth control pill market. Bayer Schering is still the world market leader for the contraceptive pill.

Williams and Murphy appear in the Bayer meeting by invitation of the Coalition against Bayer Dangers, an international network based in Germany that has been monitoring Bayer for thirty years. Both are available for interviews.

more information and the complete speeches

contact Karl Murphy: 0044 - 7921262018, Email
contact Valerie Williams: 0044 - 208 876 1691