A new study claims to reveal how the hormone pregnancy test drug Primodos damages the foetus in some pregnant women.
The report comes after alleged victims of the drug had their legal challenge against the manufacturer and the Department of Health struck out by a judge in May this year.
Primodos was a hormone-packed pill and, in the 1960s and 70s, GPs gave it to women to test whether they were pregnant.
This new report produced by a Swedish professor of pharmacology and toxicology claims the drug could cause damage to the foetus in similar ways to abortion drugs.
Bengt Danielsson, who has worked in the field of drug safety and teratology for 35 years, spent two years analysing data from studies on Hormone Pregnancy Tests (HPTs), concluding the drug had the potential to cause a range of congenital problems, such as shortened limbs, skeletal malformations, and cardiovascular defects.
Campaigners plan to raise the findings in a meeting on Wednesday with the minister for patient safety, who agreed to look again at the issue following a heated debate in parliament in September.
Previously, the government had apologised for letting down the alleged victims of Primodos, before siding with the manufacturer to block their legal claim.
HPTs were sold under different trademarks, the most prevalent in the UK was called Primodos.
Unlike the urine pregnancy test that was developed later, these were two pills that were handed out by GPs to be taken 12 hours apart.
This would give the woman a rise in hormones, followed by a rapid decline, mimicking the end of the menstrual cycle, which in non-pregnant women would trigger a menstruation bleed.
If a pregnant woman used HPTs, she would generally have high levels of pregnancy-induced progesterone, which maintains pregnancy normally and there is no bleed – and this is how the woman knows she is pregnant.
However, Professor Danielsson’s study suggests that HPTs have potential for a third outcome – to initiate a failed abortion process, resulting in uterine contractions and bleeding in some pregnant women – most likely those women with naturally lower progesterone levels when pregnant.
He argues the hormone spike from the pregnancy test could give women with low progesterone levels uterine cramping, resulting in the womb attempting to expel the uterine lining with the living embryo.
His paper suggests this also decreases blood flow to the embryo, starving tissues of oxygen (hypoxia) and when the oxygen returns, this can also impact recently formed blood vessels within the embryo (so called “vascular disruption”) which can damage whatever is developing at the time.
This could range from shortened limbs to hand defects – to damaged internal organs such as the heart and brain.
Professor Danielsson argues this “vascular disruption” is the same mechanism that can occur with the morning-after pill, Misoprostol, if it somehow fails to abort the embryo.
He says his hypothesis is supported by numerous factors, not least results in a human clinical trial in Australia, where a proportion of women who used HPTs showed “spotting” and signs similar to an early threatened miscarriage.
He also notes that the types of malformations seen in alleged HPT victims are near identical to those associated with Misoprostol.
He told Sky News: “Depending when in pregnancy of having this hypoxia, the oxygen deficiency event, that also tells you what type of malformations you would get.
“So, if it’s early on, it would be more severe, for example an amputation of the arm. Later, it might be the branches of the latest developed vessels such as the fingers.”
Professor Danielsson is also critical of an expert working group EWG commissioned by the British government, which concluded in 2017 that they could not find evidence to prove a causal association between hormone pregnancy tests and malformations in the embryo.
He argues that the datasets within the annexes of their report show the association exists.
He said: “One of the annexes to the EWG report, highlighted that HPTs may cause embryonic hypoxia by a similar mechanism as Misoprostol and that several types of malformations associated with HPTs were of the same ‘vascular disruption’ type as shown for Misoprostol.”
He added: “Two extensive epidemiogical investigations on HPT-associated malformations, based on totally different populations and different methods, were presented in annexes to the EWG report.
“Both showed consistency in increases of several specific defects, however this important aspect was neglected.”
Charles Feeny, the barrister who represented the alleged victims of Primodos, said: “It was like they (the EWG) had the pieces of a jigsaw on the table – and it’s a complicated jigsaw and you’ve got to put the pieces together carefully and they just weren’t able to do that.
“What Bengt Danielsson’s done is put all the pieces together – and there you can see that clear picture.
“Hormone Pregnancy tests did cause malformations, but they caused them in a small group of women, the women who were susceptible to it, probably because they had low progesterone levels, even though they were pregnant.”
Mr Feeny also believes the drug would have caused some women to have abortions.
The High Court judgment in May dismissed the legal case in the UK. Previous litigation against Schering, which is now owned by German manufacturer Bayer, also failed in 1982 when the claimants’ legal team decided to discontinue on the grounds that there was no realistic possibility of success.
Bayer told Sky News: “Since the discontinuation of the legal action in 1982, Bayer maintains that no significant new scientific knowledge has been produced which would call into question the validity of the previous assessment of there being no link between the use of Primodos and the occurrence of such congenital anomalies.
“In 2017, the Expert Working Group of the UK’s Commission on Human Medicines published a detailed report concluding that the available scientific data from a variety of scientific disciplines did not support the existence of a causal relationship between the use of sex hormones in pregnancy and an increased incidence of congenital anomalies in the new-born or of other adverse outcomes such as miscarriage.
“The Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use of the European Medicines Agency supported that conclusion.”
King Charles shown chuckling at get well card featuring dog in a head cone
The King has been shown having a chuckle at cards sent by well-wishers, including one of a dog with the caption “at least you don’t have to wear a cone!”.
The 75-year-old monarch has been sent around 7,000 messages of support from around the world since his cancer diagnosis.
Newly released images and footage show King Charles looking through some of them at his desk in Buckingham Palace’s Belgian Suite.
He seemed particularly tickled by a card featuring an illustration of a terrier-like dog in a head cone, recovering from medical treatment.
Pets often wear plastic collars after an operation, to stop them aggravating a wound or stitches.
Other cards spread out in front of the King include one that reads “Your Majesty Get Well Soon”, while a number appear to be hand-drawn by children.
Many have related their own experience of cancer, with messages such as: “Chin up, chest out, remain positive and don’t let it get you down.”
“Never give up. Be brave. Don’t push your limits. Get Well Soon,” says one note from a child.
Those who’ve included their address will be sent a message of thanks.
The King was pictured reading the cards on Wednesday – the same day he met the prime minister for their weekly audience.
He told Rishi Sunak that he’d been “reduced to tears” by the public’s support.
“I’ve had so many wonderful messages and cards, it has reduced me to tears most of the time,” King Charles told the prime minister.
He added: “I hear there has been a lot more potential attention on those main, wonderful cancer charities, many of which I have been a patron of for years.”
The King had been mostly staying at the Sandringham estate in Norfolk following his first round of treatment in London.
Buckingham Palace announced on 5 February that cancer had been discovered while undergoing a procedure for an enlarged prostate.
The Palace has not released details about the type of cancer or the treatment.
Professional golfer Georgia Ball can ‘see the funny side’ after ‘mansplaining’ TikTok video goes viral
Professional female golfer Georgia Ball has said she can “see the funny side” after a video of an amateur player “mansplaining” to her about her swing went viral.
Ball, a certified PGA pro and instructor, also told Sky Sports she did not put the man in his place during the “awkward” conversation because she is a “humble person”.
The TikTok video of the incident she shared earlier this week has had more than 10 million views and over 26,000 comments, with many social media users mocking the man for “mansplaining”.
In the clip, Ball, who regularly shares instructional videos on her account, is seen practising her swing at a driving range near Liverpool.
A man off camera then says: “Excuse me, what you’re doing there, you shouldn’t be doing that… swing and follow through.”
He goes on to tell her that she is “too slow on the way up”.
Ball explains she is going through a “swing change” – something golfers regularly do to improve their technique.
However, the man continues: “I know, but what you’re doing there is you’re coming back too slow.
“I’ve been playing golf for 20 years, what you need to do is follow through a lot quicker than what you’re doing there right now.”
She explains again that she is going through a swing change, but the man continues to advise that she needs to move her club quicker.
Ball then cleanly strikes the ball into the distance before the man says: “See how much better that was?”
The professional golfer explains once again that she is practising a swing change, before the man repeats that he “has been playing for 20 years” and that she should carry on playing the way he has advised her to.
Ball then laughs, before sarcastically adding: “Thanks for your advice.”
Asked by Sky Sports how she felt during the interaction, Ball said: “It was an awkward conversation at the time but I was just concentrating on what I was doing… I am glad I can look back on it now and see the funny side to it.”
When asked if she was ever tempted to put the man in his place, she said: “To be honest, I am a humble person, it is not in me to call him out or say I am a PGA pro, it is just not in me to do that.”
Ball added that she never got the chance to see the man hit a ball, so was unable to pass comment on his swing.
Scarlet Blake, who killed a cat and put animal in blender, found guilty of man’s murder
A woman who filmed herself killing a cat before putting the animal in a blender has been found guilty of murdering a man four months later.
Warning: This story contains descriptions and an image that readers may find distressing
Scarlet Blake, 25, live-streamed the dissection of a family pet to New Order’s 1987 hit True Faith after watching a Netflix documentary called Don’t F*** With Cats.
In the programme, Luka Magnotta kills kittens before filming a murder while the same song plays in the background.
Prosecutors said Blake, who is transgender, had a “fixation with violence” and found Jorge Martin Carreno, 30, while searching the streets of Oxford looking for someone to kill in the early hours of 25 July 2021.
The body of the BMW factory worker, a Spanish national who was walking home alone after a night out with work colleagues, was found in the River Cherwell at Parson’s Pleasure around 24 hours later.
Oxford Crown Court heard a murder investigation was launched two years later when Blake’s former partner Ashlynn Bell, who lives in the US, told detectives Blake had confessed to killing Mr Martin Carreno using a homemade garrote.
Blake pleaded guilty to a charge of criminal damage over killing the cat but denied murdering Mr Martin Carreno by inflicting blows to his head before trying to strangle him and then putting him in the river where he drowned.
Four months before his death, she used food and a crate to capture a cat and take it to her home, where she killed it.
In the video, in which Blake dissects the animal, removing the fur and skin, she says: “Here we go my little friend. Oh boy, you smell like shit. I can’t wait to put through the blender.”
Prosecutors said it showed she had a “disturbing interest in what it would be like to harm a living creature”.
“It was an interest that went beyond mere fantasy,” Alison Morgan KC told jurors, who were also shown videos of Blake and a partner engaging in consensual strangulation with ligatures.
“She described herself to others as being someone who derived sexual gratification from the thought of violence and the thought of death,” said the prosecutor.
CCTV footage shows Mr Martin Carreno trying to find his way home, while Blake walked the streets, wearing a facemask and distinctive combat-style jacket with hood over her head, while carrying a rucksack.
“He died because he encountered the defendant on that night,” said Ms Morgan.
“He died because he met a person who had a fixation with violence and with knowing what it would feel like to kill someone.”
Blake, who was born in China and came to the UK aged nine, blamed Ms Bell for making her kill the cat.
She said Mr Martin Carreno was still alive when she left him at the riverbank and that she had made up details of killing him to please her ex-partner after seeing his death in the news.
“I told Ashlynn that I killed that person, I made up the details in a dramatic way,” she said.
“I told her I used a garrote that I made to try and remove the person’s head, but it was more difficult than I would have imagined and then I dumped the body in the river, which is what they are now pulling out.”
‘Full of passion and kindness’
Mr Martin Carreno’s family paid tribute to “an extraordinary being full of passion and kindness” who was one of three triplet brothers.
“Today, his absence leaves a deep wound in our hearts,” they said in a statement. “His life was stolen, cutting short his projects and dreams.”
“This tribute is a reminder of Jorge but also a call to justice. There can be no peace until justice is served. We ask not only for justice for him but also for protection to prevent other people, other families, from suffering the immense pain caused by such cruel and senseless murders.”
Thames Valley Police detective superintendent Jon Capps said several aspects of the case were “truly disturbing to see, hear and deal with”.
“This defendant showed calculated cruelty. The acts Blake has been convicted of are barbaric and chilling. The murder was premeditated with total disregard and disdain for life,” he added.
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