A SOUTHAMPTON woman is campaigning for justice after her brother was born with severe disabilities, nearly 50 years ago.
Charlotte Fensome, 38, grew up with an older brother who is unable to walk, talk, or feed himself.
Steven, 49, has so many epileptic seizures a day that respite carers are unable to look after him.
Now a film suggesting his disabilities were caused by the drug Primodos has been shown in Parliament, in an effort by campaigners to highlight his devastating story.
Primodos was prescribed to women in the 1960s and 1970s as a pregnancy test. But documents have been uncovered that appear to show the test was being used in other countries to induce abortions.
Now property developer Charlotte is campaigning for drug company Schering – now Bayer – to take responsibility for what she says are the devastating effects of the drug.
Campaigners also say the British government knew about the drug’s effects as early as 1975.
Charlotte’s mum, Pat Bagley, asked to see her medical records a few years ago and saw that a line showing the name of the pregnancy test she was given had been altered with correction fluid.
Charlotte said: “My mum was given the drug in 1967. My parents are fantastic but their lives were made hell. We adore Steven but as a child I couldn’t have friends round to play because they were scared of him.
“And now that I’ve got children I can see how different it could have been. There were lots of things we couldn’t do or that were difficult. I couldn’t go to the cinema until I was old enough to go by myself.”
She added: “Now I’m worried how I will cope when I’m looking after him – and if something happens to me, who will look after him then?
“There is possibility of compensation and that would be welcome because his care could be very expensive.
“But that’s not what it’s about. It’s the fact that my parents have dealt with this for 40 years now. It makes me so angry to see what my parents have gone through. We want to stop this kind of thing ever happening again.”
Along with the Association for Children Damaged by Hormone Pregnancy Tests – the organisation which first uncovered the hidden documents – the mum of four has teamed up with Eastleigh MP Mims Davies, pictured below, to bring the story to light.
Bayer denies that Primodos is responsible for deformities in children.
A spokesperson said: “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.
Researchers say that the super-strength hormone pill contained the equivalent of 40 contraceptive pills – and that it contained the same ingredients used in contraceptive pills today.
Because Steven’s epilepsy is so severe it cannot be medicated, and his family are the only ones able to care for him. And when her parents are no longer able to look after him Charlotte will become his main carer.
Ms Davies said: “I first met Charlotte at a constituency surgery shortly after being elected, at which time I learned about the severe disability her brother Stephen has and the impact on her parents and her family after a hormone pregnancy test was given to her mother early in her pregnancy.
“Since then, I have joined the all-parliamentary group on hormone pregnancy testing, spoken about the issue in the Commons, and have lobbied ministers.
“Since the discontinuation of legal action in the UK 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 use of Primodos and the occurrence of congenital abnormalities.
“Based on the facts and on the law, Bayer does not accept that Primodos was responsible for causing congenital abnormalities.”