HC Deb 24 April 1996 vol 276 cc179-80W
Mr. Home Robertson

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) if he will make a statement on research evaluated by his Department relating to the harmful side effects of cortico-steroid drugs; [26595]

(2) if he will institute a national programme to monitor the prescription of cortico-steroid drugs in the United Kingdom and the extent and nature of side effects on patients; [26597]

(3) what is the most recent research evaluated by his Department on the suitability of prescribed cortico-steroid drugs; and what plans he has to promote further research; [26596]

(4) if he will make a statement on the provision of compensation for patients who have suffered long-term damage as a result of prescribed cortico-steroid drugs in cases where no warning had been given of such risks. [26598]

Mr. Malone

Corticosteroids are effective in the treatment of many serious and life-threatening disorders and have been used for many years. All medicines have side- effects. Those for corticosteroids are well documented in the product information which is produced by the manufacturer and authorised by the licensing authority and in the British National Formulary which the Department sends free of charge to all doctors.

A national programme for monitoring the side-effects of medicines already exists. The Medicines Control Agency continuously monitors and assesses the safety of all licensed human medicinal products including corticosteroids. This includes evaluating research obtained from various sources. In 1994, the Committee on Safety of Medicines evaluated the association of corticosteroids and severe chickenpox, as a result of which the product information of corticosteroids was revised.

I have no plans to monitor the prescribing of corticosteroids. It is for the prescribing doctor to decide on the suitability of treating a patient with corticosteroids using their clinical judgement and knowledge of the patient involved. Nor are there plans to commission research in this area at present.

The Government believe that any claims for compensation as a result of suspected reactions in association with prescribed medicines is a matter for individuals to pursue with the person or company involved, if necessary through the courts.

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