Sunderland mum demands answers about ‘unsafe’ Primodos drug – 44 years after baby’s death

Lynda Ramsay with her daughter Helen. Lynda's son Gary died aged 12 days in 1970 due to birth defects which are attributed to her taking a pregnancy test containing Primodos.
Lynda Ramsay with her daughter Helen. Lynda's son Gary died aged 12 days in 1970 due to birth defects which are attributed to her taking a pregnancy test containing Primodos.
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THE mother of a baby who died at 12 days old after being born with horrific deformities has joined calls for a public inquiry into a controversial pregnancy test drug.

Today marks 44 years to the day since Lynda Ramsey buried her baby son Gary Lee Scrafton at Witherwack Cemetery, four days after he died on November 30, 1970.

A grainy picture taken from an 8mm cine film is the only image Lynda has of her baby son Gary.

A grainy picture taken from an 8mm cine film is the only image Lynda has of her baby son Gary.

Gary was born with part of his brain formed on the back of his head, similar to spina bifida, and he had fluid on his brain.

Lynda, 62, was given the drug Primodos early in her pregnancy – and blames that for her baby’s death.

Lynda, of Southwick, is among campaigners from the Association for Children Damaged by Hormone Pregnancy Tests, who are calling for the Government to admit that the drug, which was used in the 1960s and 70s, should not have been prescribed because it was unsafe.

There has never been any conclusive evidence that the drug causes birth defects, and manufacturer Bayer Pharma – formerly Schering – has denied it was responsible for causing any deformities.

Lynda Ramsay with her daughter Helen. Lynda's son Gary died aged 12 days in 1970 due to birth defects which are attributed to her taking a pregnancy test containing Primodos.

Lynda Ramsay with her daughter Helen. Lynda's son Gary died aged 12 days in 1970 due to birth defects which are attributed to her taking a pregnancy test containing Primodos.

However, the Government has finally set up an expert group to examine new evidence that has come to light, as well as looking in detail at studies conducted at the time.

In 1975, the Committee on Safety of Medicines – now the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) – issued a warning, printed on the packet, that it should not be given to pregnant women. That was eight years after the Medical Council, in 1967, warned that the drug could be ‘another Thalidomide’.

Lynda, who was given Primodos in 1970, three years after the warning, told the Echo today: “I was one of the people who took this drug and my son died at 12 days.”

Lynda’s son was taken away from her at birth and she never got to hold him. All she has left of her baby is a grainy still image from brief footage she managed to capture on cine film.

He was transferred to the RVI in Newcastle and she was never to see him conscious again. She was told he had died when she arrived to visit him.

“It was a terrible time,” the retired traffic warden said. “I only got a quick glimpse before they took him away. I never got to hold my baby.”

The drug contained hormones similar to those used in the modern-day morning after pill – but at extremely high concentrations.

One dose was equivalent to taking 13 morning after pills or 157 oral contraceptive pills.

It consisted of two tablets, taken 12 hours apart, which if the woman was not pregnant would bring on menstruation. If it did not, it was used as an indicator that she was expecting.

A number of women given the drug suffered instant miscarriages, according to research at the time, while thousands more gave birth to babies with missing limbs, abnormalities in their internal organs, brain damage and heart defects. But there was no evidence they were linked to the drug.

“When I got pregnant in 1970 as a single woman, I went to my doctor and I was told to take these two tablets, one at night and one the next morning and if you didn’t get a period you were pregnant,” Lynda said.

“I never questioned what they were because I trusted the doctor.”

Many of the 1.5million British women prescribed the drug, which entered the market in 1959, are still demanding answers.

They claim long-forgotten evidence of recently discovered correspondence, allegedly showing Schering knew about the possibly damaging effects. The Prime Minister last month ordered a full disclosure of all documents after meeting Bolton South East Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi, who is calling for a public inquiry.

A cross-party group of MPs has also been set up to examine the issue.

A legal case in 1982 fell apart when The Legal Aid Board said it could not continue to provide public funding as it felt the weight of argument was in favour of Schering.

Lynda, now a grandmother-of-two, went on to marry ex-husband Anthony Ramsey, 72, and the pair, who still live together, have two healthy children, Helen, 28, and Andrew, 26.

She said: “The pain will never go away, but I won’t give up. If there is a pay out it will go to my children.”

A spokesman for Bayer said: “Bayer denies that Primodos was responsible for causing any deformities in children.

“UK litigation in respect of Primodos, against Schering (which is now owned by Bayer), ended in 1982 when the claimants’ legal team, with the approval of the court, decided to discontinue the litigation on the grounds that there was no realistic possibility of showing that Primodos caused the congenital abnormalities alleged.

“Since the discontinuation of the legal action in 1982, no new scientific knowledge has been produced which would call into question the validity of the previous assessment of there being no link between the use of Primodos and the occurrence of such congenital abnormalities.”