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08th November 2010

Legal aid removed in epilepsy case

The Legal Services Commission (LSC) has withdrawn legal aid for a group of families suing the maker of a drug used to prevent epileptic seizures.

The LSC said it was no longer funding an action for damages against Sanofi-aventis, manufacturer of sodium valproate, which the familes claim caused birth defects in children.

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

The claimants said there were inadequate warnings about possible harm from the drug in the 1990s, but the firm has denied the allegation, saying it has always provided appropriate warnings on the risks associated with possible side-effects.

Dr Ian Weatherhead, communications director for sanofi-aventis, said: "We have sympathy for the claimants but we have always believed that their case would be unsuccessful."

A spokesman for the LSC said: "Legal aid is no longer funding an action against the makers of the drug epilim. However, because proceedings are still ongoing we are unable to comment further."

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