Families Sue Europe's Largest Drug Company Over Anti-Convulsant Drug as Deadline Is Given By High Court

Epilim drug claims in group action case


Victims of the epilepsy drug Epilim have been given until 1st October to register their compensation claim in the High Court against Europe's largest drug company. A major nationwide media campaign to alert other families of the urgent need to register their claims or lose out is now underway.

The group action by national law firm Irwin Mitchell (the Foetal Anti Convulsant Litigation: FACL) is being brought against Europe's largest drug manufacturer, Sanofi-Synthelabo, which markets sodium valproate as Epilim.

One of the families affected, The Mann family, is helping to highlight the disabilities they claim were caused to their daughters Rhonwen, 12, and Branwen, 10, whilst in the womb when their mother Deborah, 43, used the drug sodium valproate to control epileptic seizures during pregnancy.

Families across the UK claim that the drug caused one or more of a wide range of problems in children, including learning and social difficulties, ADHD, spinal stenosis, facial abnormalities, vision defects, dyslexia, dyspraxia, delayed speech and motor development.

Mrs Mann claims that her daughters injured before birth because she took the prescription drugs during her pregnancy.

She says: "I am very lucky to have such lovely daughters, but each day they suffer the damage caused by the medicine I took when pregnant. While we do everything we can to ensure the girls have the care and equipment they need, it is expensive and we feel strongly that the company whose products caused these problems should face its responsibilities and meet the extra costs we face."

Epilepsy drug claimant time limits

To help it gauge the scale of the Litigation, the High Court in London has set a cut-off date of 2nd March 2007 for claimants to join the action. However, claims must be registered with national law firm Irwin Mitchell before then “ by 1st October 2006 - to allow for proper investigation of each case before it is registered as part of the claimants group in the litigation.

The campaign is being co-ordinated by the support group OACS (Organisation for Anti-Convulsant Syndrome), formed by Mrs Janet Williams from Preston, who has two affected sons, Lee and Philip. She says:

"The British Epilepsy Association says there are 456,000 people in Britain with epilepsy. We calculate that there may be as many as 37,500 children with foetal anti-convulsant syndrome.

"We want to hear from any family where the mother took this anti-epileptic drug in pregnancy and where a child has had FACS diagnosed or suffers from a range of neural, behavioural and physical disorders.

We are not saying the drug doesn't work to control seizures, because it does, but we are saying that one side effect is foetal damage during pregnancy and we believe Sanofi should foot the bill for the cost of care that children damaged by the drug require.

Leading drug claims lawyer comments

David Body, partner at national law firm Irwin Mitchell which is acting for the families, says:

To date, over 170 families have registered their claims but we think that there may be many more children affected than are yet in touch with us. OACS is running a national media campaign to ensure families who think they have a claim know how to proceed. Families who miss the 1st October 2006 deadline will have very little chance of joining this action against Sanofi.

Families wishing to register a claim or who want to talk to experts about any potential harm their child could have suffered from sodium valproate should call OACS on 01253 790 022.

Do you have a claim? If you or someone you know has been effected by defective drugs, visit our drug liability claims section for more details on making a claim for compensation.