Women in Test Case Face Ruin as Judge Says the Pill Is Safe; Reassurance for Millions of Users as [Pounds Sterling]10million Damages Claim Fails

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Byline: JENNY HOPE

MILLIONS of women who use the Pill were told by a High Court judge yesterday that the latest generation of oral contraceptives is safe.

Mr Justice Mackay said that 'third generation' pills are no riskier than earlier types and no more likely to cause blood clots in the legs.

The ruling dashed the pound sterling10million compensation hopes of more than 100 women who had brought a test case blaming the newer pills for seven deaths, cases of paralysis and other serious health problems.

The High Court case against three pharmaceutical firms collapsed as the judge concluded there was no difference between second and third generations of the Pill in the risk of blood clots in the legs.

His verdict suggested that a major scare in 1995 - when women were told by Government drug safety experts that third generation pills doubled the risk of blood clots - was unfounded.

The ruling followed 44 days of legal argument in a case estimated to have cost pound sterling9.5million. While most of this came from taxpayers, those women who funded their own cases could now face legal costs of up to pound sterling100,000 each.

Mr Justice Mackay, who said he was aware the result would come as a 'serious disappointment' to them, based his ruling on evidence from ten epidemiological experts.

He had special praise for a complex statistical analysis by two experts which concluded there was no increased risk.

When the case opened in March, the High Court was told women had been kept in the dark about the 'disastrous' side effects of third generation pills made by Organon Laboratories, Schering Healthcare and Wyeth. Using the Consumer Protection Act, the women claimed the pills posed an increased risk and manufacturers should have warned those who took them.

In 1995, preliminary research linking the new pills with an increased risk of blood clots led to an unprecedented official warning to switch to 'safer' brands.

It caused a major panic, with surgeries swamped by worried women, and led to at least 29,000 extra abortions.

Before the scare, 54 per cent of pill users were taking a third generation brand such as Femodene, Femodene ED, Minulet, Triadene, Tri-Minulet, Marvelon and Mercilon-This fell to one in six women. …