HC Deb 30 April 1968 vol 763 cc987-8
23. Mr. Brooks

asked the Minister of Health what is his latest estimate of the risks to health arising from the use of the contraceptive pill; and what plans he has to aid research designed to minimise such hazards.

63. Mr. Cronin

asked the Minister of Health what is his latest estimate of the risk to health arising from the use of the contraceptive pill; and what is his policy with regard to this.

Mr. K. Robinson

It is not possible in the present state of knowledge to estimate accurately all risks to health from the use of oral contraceptives, but those risks about which some information is available, including thrombo-embolism, appear to be much less than the total risks associated with pregnancy. A number of research projects of various kinds are already in progress with Government financial support, and will, it is hoped, provide more information on possible hazards involved.

The Committee on Safety of Drugs have advised me that they do not feel justified in recommending that oral contraceptives should be withdrawn from the market provided that they remain available only on prescription and that doctors and patients are aware of the degree of risk involved.

Mr. Brooks

I thank my right hon. Friend for that full and broadly reassuring reply. Does he agree that there is a need to investigate the side effects which appear to be experienced by different women, since they might be found only in certain types of individuals who are vulnerable to the particularly serious consequences of the pill?

Mr. Robinson

I agree that we need to know a good deal more about this matter. My hon. Friend may like to know that some of the studies in progress are directed to this end.

Mr. Dean

Can the Minister say what steps are being taken to co-ordinate the various research projects taking place, which seem to be fairly large in number?

Mr. Robinson

I think that one should regard the Committee on the Safety of Drugs and the Medical Research Council as the co-ordinating bodies. The Committee on the Safety of Drugs is handling the continuous monitoring. The Medical Research Council is carrying out a longterm project, in association with the Family Planning Association, and it is also supporting a project being carried out by the Royal College of General Medical Practitioners.

Dr. Summerskill

Is the Minister entirely satisfied that the number of Government-sponsored pieces of research which are taking place are adequate to investigate a comparatively new drug which is taken by nearly a million women whose numbers are increasing every day?

Mr. Robinson

I think that the scale of research into this matter is adequate. I am speaking, of course, for this country. There is a great deal of research going on in other countries. Certainly the Medical Research Council and the Dunlop Committee are giving close and continuous attention to the problem.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Would the best answer be to develop a contraceptive pill which could be taken by men?

Mr. Robinson

This might be a solution, but conceivably this, too, might have undesirable side effects.

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