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Mother Blames Drugs Company for Daughter's Severe Disability

From Evening Standard (London, England) (January 28, 2011)

A MOTHER today claimed how her severely disabled daughter could die any day because of prescribed drugs she took during her pregnancy.

Karen Buck called for justice and pleaded with the pharmaceutical company she blames for her 12-year-old’s condition to take responsibility.

Hers is one of 80 families who have been fighting for six years to sue drug manufacturer Sanofi-aventis for damages, claiming there were inadequate warnings about possible harm to their children in the Nineties.

Today they appeared at the High Court, where they were forced to drop their case after their legal funding was withdrawn. They say the drug, Epilim, caused a range of birth defects in their children, including spina bifida, damage to the heart, learning difficulties, cleft palates and deformities of the hands and feet.

Ms Buck’s daughter Bridget Coyle has spina bifida and epilepsy and cannot walk, talk or feed herself. She has the mental age of a two-year-old.

Ms Buck, 39, a mother of four from Stanmore, said: "When I was pregnant with Bridget the doctors increased my dose because they were worried about me having a fit while I was carrying her. At six months, they discovered she had spina bifida and I immediately stopped taking the drug." Ms Buck, Bridget’s full-time carer, said she will continue to fight for justice for Bridget, who doctors say will not live beyond her teens.

"I cannot give up while I have a little girl who needs me," she said. "But every day I’m treading on thin ice and one day I will wake up and she will not be here any more."

Solicitors Irwin Mitchell, representing the families of 100 affected children, said its clients were "devastated" after the Legal Services Commission said it would no longer fund the action. The case has already cost Pounds 3.2 million in legal aid.

Drugs company Sanofi-aventis has always denied any wrongdoing.

A spokeswoman said: "We are very sympathetic towards the claimants and their families, although we have always believed their case would be unsuccessful.

All medicines may produce side effects through their use. We have always provided appropriate information and warnings in relation to the potential side effects."

‘I cannot give up while I have a little girl who needs me. But one day I will wake up and she will not be here’ Bridget’s mother Karen Buck

Posted: January 2011