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Epilepsy drug case put on hold

Epilepsy drug case put on hold

Some 170 families who blame an epilepsy drug for causing defects in their children have had litigation put on hold after legal aid to sue the drug's maker was withdrawn.

The High Court trial of a group action against pharmaceutical giant Sanofi-aventis over the Epilim (sodium valproate) medication, which the families claim caused birth defects including spina bifida, heart damage and deformities of the palate, hands and feet, has been adjourned until December 20.

The firm denies the allegations, saying it has always provided appropriate precautions, and also denies claims that there were inadequate warnings about the possible side-effects of the drugs in the 1990s.

The legal action has floundered after the Legal Services Commission (LSC) took the decision on October 26 to withdraw public funding for the litigation.

The families' lawyers said the case has taken six years to prepare at a cost of £3.2 million – within the £4 million LSC budget – and a further £750,000 – within the allocated funds – was required to enable it to proceed to trial.

Colin McCaul QC said the families were considering whether to apply for a judicial review of the LSC's decision before discontinuing the action.

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