Labour MP for Erith & Thamesmead

Teresa Pearce MP

Archive for January, 2011

Rough Justice 2

Posted on January 26, 2011 by Teresa Pearce

Not had chance to write on here for ages due to just being so darn busy. One of the things occupying my time was trying to get the Legal Services Commission to change its mind about their decision to withdraw legal aid from a group of families who blame an epilepsy drug for causing defects in their children. The case had been six years  preparing for trial and to have the legal aid withdrawn at this 11th hour means it will not get heard in court. I have written to the Minister , lodged an Early Day Motion and met with some of the families and the lawyer David Body.  Its a heartbreaking case. The full press release is below

Lawyers acting for families who blame an epilepsy drug for causing defects in their children have said they are dropping their case against its maker after legal aid was withdrawn.

Solicitors Irwin Mitchell said their clients were “devastated” that their case would never be heard in court after six years of preparation for trial.

The Legal Services Commission (LSC) said in November that it was no longer funding an action against the makers of sodium valproate, a drug used to prevent epileptic seizures.

About 80 families claim the drug, also known as epilim, caused a range of birth defects, including spina bifida, damage to the heart, learning difficulties, cleft palate and deformities of the hands and feet.

They have been pursuing a legal action for damages against manufacturer sanofi-aventis, claiming there were inadequate warnings about possible harm in the 1990s.

The firm has denied the claims, saying it has always provided appropriate precautions and warnings on the risks associated with possible side-effects of the medicine.

The law firm had urged the LSC to rethink its decision, saying the action was an important test case.

David Body, a medical law and patients’ rights expert at Irwin Mitchell, said: “We have been fighting on behalf of hundreds of children who have been injured after their mothers took epilim in pregnancy for over six years, but we have been forced to abandon the trial of the action after Legal Services Commission funding was withdrawn.

“At a hearing on January 28 we will be advising the court that our case against the manufacturers of epilim must be discontinued, not because we have lost our fight in court but because continuing without legal aid funding would place our clients at too great a financial risk.

“Our clients are understandably devastated that their case will never be heard in court after six years of preparation for trial. Not having lost at court, our clients are understandably concerned to continue their fight to have the manufacturers of the drug, sanofi, meet their obligations to the children injured by epilim. We fully support our clients in their ongoing campaign to achieve compensation for the harm their children have suffered as a result of drug exposure.”

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