HC Deb 04 July 1919 vol 117 cc1279-80W

asked the Minister of Health whether his Department is taking any action in regard to the recent death of a girl in St. George's Hospital while undergoing treatment for congenital syphilis; what drug was used in this case and whether it had received the approval of his Department; whether he proposes to continue to approve of the use of such drugs; whether it is a fact, as stated by a medical witness at the inquest, that there had been a crop of such cases at Cambridge and Dublin during the War; how many deaths of this description have occurred in England and Wales since the beginning of the War; and whether he will make arrangements for the immediate report to his Department of all such deaths, both among soldiers and ex-soldiers and in the general population, in order that careful records may be available for reference?


The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative The case referred to is under inquiry by the special committee appointed by the Medical Research Committee to investigate the results of the treatment of syphilis by salvarsan and its substitutes. I understand that the drug used in this case was novarsenobillon, which is one of the drugs approved by my Department for the treatment of syphilis and tested under arrangements made by the Medical Research Committee. I am not aware of any sufficient reason for discontinuing the approval of the use of this and similar drugs. In this connection I may add that I understand the coroner's finding at the inquest on this case was that this drug was properly administered and in proper amount.

I understand that there have been, several fatal cases following, though not necessarily caused by, the administration of these drugs in military hospitals at Cambridge and Dublin during the War, and these cases, also, are under investigation by the Special Committee. No precise information is at present available as to the number of deaths of this description which have occurred in England and Wales since the beginning of the War, but the total number is, of course, very small, especially in proportion to the very large number of injections of such drugs taking place daily.

The suggestion in the last part of the question will be considered with the report of the Special Committee when it is received. Already my Department have been considering the desirability of requiring special reports direct to the Ministry of all exceptional results following the administration of these drugs.