Tuesday, 23 April, 2024
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Commissioner recommends damages for UK pelvic mesh victims

Families of children left disabled by an epilepsy drug and women injured by pelvic mesh implants should be given urgent financial help, England’s patient safety commissioner Dr Henrietta Hughes has said, urging the government to act quickly to help victims of the two health scandals.

This follows a review which found lives were ruined because concerns about some treatments were ignored, reports the BBC.

Ministers have said they will consider and respond to the recommendations.

Hughes’ role was created to look into the scandals surrounding the drug sodium valproate and pelvic mesh implants.

“These families weren’t listened to by a system that turned its back, and fobbed them off with information, which led to them not only being harmed, but thousands of others being harmed,” she said.

Sodium valproate is a medication for epilepsy and bipolar disorder, but if
taken during pregnancy, can cause major birth defects. Yet for decades, women were not properly warned about the risks.

An estimated 20 000 children were exposed to the drug while in the womb and many live with neuro-developmental disorders, like autism.

Pelvic mesh scandal

For years, pelvic mesh was considered to be the gold standard treatment for incontinence and prolapse in women.

However, the net-like implant can erode and harden, cutting through tissue and causing serious pain.

Thousands of women who have experienced life-changing complications have lost their mobility, relationships and jobs.

From as early as the 1980s, scientific papers suggested valproate medicines were dangerous to developing babies, yet warnings about the potential effects were not added to some packaging until 2016.

Some affected families have been campaigning for decades to raise awareness of the potential effects of the drug, calling for compensation and a public inquiry.

The government asked Hughes to look into a potential compensation scheme for those affected by the scandal, as well as one involving about 10 000 women who were injured by their pelvic mesh implants.

A number of women were left in permanent pain, unable to walk, work or have sex.

Figures suggest there were 127 000 mesh implants between April 2008 and March 2017, but campaigners believe the actual number is higher.

Hughes has recommended initial payments of £100 000 be made to victims of the sodium valproate scandal and £20 000 to women injured by mesh implants.

This should be followed by further payments for some, as well as some non-financial assistance to victims and their families, she said.

‘Scandal bigger than thalidomide’

She told the BBC the sodium valproate scandal was “bigger than thalidomide”, referring to the severe birth defects caused by a morning-sickness drug licensed in the 1950s in the UK.

She said many of the children with the disabilities – known as foetal valproate syndrome – had been unable to work or look after themselves as adults, and a redress scheme was “a question of justice”.

‘Severe pain’ from mesh

The initial review in 2020 concluded that the suffering caused by pelvic mesh had also been entirely avoidable, caused by failings in the health system and not heeding families’ warnings.

Hughes said many women who have been injured by the mesh now need wheelchairs and have to “pay a fortune” to travel to hospital appointments.

“It just adds insult to injury,” she said.


BBC article – Mesh and sodium valproate scandal victims need payouts soon, report says (Open access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


UK medicines’ regulator investigates unsafe epilepsy drug being given to pregnant women


Sanofi ordered to compensate for epilepsy drug’s autism side-effect in pregnancy


Half of patients should not have had mesh surgery, UK hospital admits


Vaginal mesh implant victim awarded £1m


Law firms kickstart class action over J&J pelvic mesh devices

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