Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Lawyer hunts for UK 'DES daughters'

The pregnancy drug was widely prescribed between 1938 and 1971

Women whose mothers were prescribed the common pregnancy drug DES will be encouraged to seek compensation as it has been linked to certain cancers.

The drug, whose full name is diethylstilboestrol, was widely prescribed between 1938 and 1971 in the false belief it could help reduce the risk of miscarriage.

But in 1971 researchers found a link between DES and vaginal cancer in daughters of the women given the medicine. It has also been linked to an increased risk of breast and cervical cancer in such women.

Washington-based lawyer Aaron Levine will travel to the UK in two weeks to organise a hunt for the so-called "DES daughters" who have been unable to claim compensation in the British courts, the Independent on Sunday reported.

Hundreds of thousands of people are estimated to have been exposed to the drug but there is no confirmed figure.

Mr Levine, who has represented women in the US who have been affected by it, told the newspaper the drug was "quackery".

He said: "It never worked. It was like leeches or bleeding or copper rings. It didn't do anything positive for anyone and didn't help anyone's pregnancy."

But the Department of Health suggested any compensation awarded would be a matter for the drug companies and not the Government.

A spokeswoman said: "This is clearly a complex issue and one that is of great importance to those affected. The department recognises the concerns of people who believe they have been adversely affected by diethylstilboestrol and has every sympathy with them. With regard to compensation for people who believe they have been adversely affected by this drug, this is a matter for the manufacturer(s) and/or the UK licensees of the drug."

The NHS says the risk of vaginal cancer associated with using diethylstilboestrol is small.

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