§ 1. Mr. Loyden
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when he will next meet the chairman of the Committee on Safety of Medicines.
§ The Minister for Health (Mr. Kenneth Clarke)
My right hon. Friend met Sir Abraham Goldberg in October 1983. Further meetings will be arranged as needed.
§ Mr. Loyden
Will the Minister make it his business to meet the chairman of the committee and ask him why, when it was reported in August 1983 that the drug Osmosin had been linked with 600 to 650 adverse effects and 20 deaths, no steps were taken by the United Kingdom authorities to withdraw the drug, and it was the West German authorities who approached the drug company to have the drug withdrawn? Is it not a scandal that, although the figures used by the West German authorities came from the United Kingdom, the United Kingdom authorities took no steps in connection with the drug and the Minister made no statement to the House on this serious matter?
§ Mr. Clarke
No, I do not accept that there was any avoidable delay in this case. The drug was only marketed in this country in December 1982. In July 1983 the Committee on Safety of Medicines was advising doctors of the risks connected with it. Action was then taken in Germany and the drug has now been withdrawn from the market.
§ Mr. McCrindle
Can my right hon. and learned Friend clarify the committee's position on the morning-after contraceptive pill? Has the committee said that it is safe if used on its own, that it is safe if used in conjunction with more conventional oral contraceptives, or that it is not safe at all?
§ Mr. Clarke
The committee has advised that it is safe as an emergency measure only. It should not be contemplated as a normal form of contraception. The committee has advised doctors of the most desirable method of morning-after contraception. Those who think that they may need to take such steps are advised to consult their medical practitioner.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
The Minister will be aware that anxiety has been expressed recently about the difficulty which the elderly have in interpreting prescriptions for some of the medicines which are prescribed for them. Will the Government express a view on that?
§ Mr. Clarke
If the hon. Gentleman's question relates to the recent report by the Royal College of Physicians on overprescribing for the elderly, I must tell him that I welcome that report. Its conclusions are in line with the kind of advice the Department tries to give.
§ Mr. Tim Smith
Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the letter which was sent by the Committee on Safety of Medicines on 20 October last year, and the list attached which gave the progestational 122 potency of certain oral contraceptives, was confusing to doctors and patients? Will he arrange for the list to be withdrawn?
§ Mr. Clarke
No, I do not think that it is confusing because it accompanied a letter from the Committee on Safety of Medicines giving clear advice on those contraceptive pills. The conclusion is that that they are a perfectly desirable and reasonable method of contraception, but that women who finish their present course of pills would be advised to consult their medical practitioner so that he can perhaps consider changing to a different pill for the next course.
The list has been criticised because some people have criticised one of the pieces of research upon which it is based which sought to link progesterone with breast cancer. The letter from the committee which accompanied the list made it clear that that theory was not endorsed by the committee. We and the committee are trying to keep up to date with all the research in this sphere and will endeavour to issue the best advice that we can to medical practitioners and women.