Lawsuits over birth control 'failures'

A Yorkshire mother is to become one of the first in the country to sue over the alleged failure of a leading contraceptive implant that may have caused nearly 600 unwanted pregnancies nationwide.

The Bradford woman is one of three whose cases have been taken up by a York solicitors which is set to take legal action against NHS bosses of PCTs covering Bradford and Wakefield and a private practice in South Yorkshire.

The 28-year-old single mother-of-one from Allerton was first fitted with the implant three years ago and went to get it replaced in May last year as its programmed life was up.

But she claims the GP never fitted it at all. The woman, who has asked not be named, said yesterday: "My son has autism and I didn't want to get pregnant again because I wouldn't have been able to cope.

"But in August I found out I was pregnant. I had a termination and suffered a lot of health complications over the three months following it and it put me into a severe depression.

"I couldn't look after my son properly and he had to go stay with my parents. I had a lot of tests and they discovered the implant wasn't there in the first place.

"I'm getting back to normal now but am very angry. It is reassuring to know there are so many people who have suffered but also I wonder what awful things they had to go through as well."

As reported by the Yorkshire Post, hundreds of women have become pregnant despite using the implant.

Thousands had the 90 Implanon contraceptive device fitted, which was supposed to stop women getting pregnant for three years by releasing hormones into the bloodstream from a tiny tube in their arm.

But 1,600 women complained about the device to the medicines watchdog, including 584 who said they had unwanted pregnancies.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has confirmed it had received a total of 1,607 adverse drug reaction reports linked to Implanon, citing 2,888 suspect reactions.

Richard Greensit, Assistant Solicitor at Pryers Solicitors in York, said they were acting for three clients so far.

He said: "They have each gone to have the implant fitted and have become pregnant and have later been found not to have the device in their body.

"In one case, the lady was not found to be pregnant until she could no longer terminate the pregnancy. She continued with the pregnancy and she unfortunately gave birth to a still-born baby. Clearly, there has been a massive psychological impact associated." In another case, the client terminated at nine weeks but had continuing problems as a result.

Sexual health experts in North Yorkshire have reassured women about the method.

Dr Myra Holbrook, Clinical Lead for Family Planning for York Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: "We're talking about very small numbers of women who have become pregnant while using the implant, and some of these cases were down to the device not being fitted properly."

In 2010, Implanon was replaced with a new, easier to insert implant called Nexplanon.

Dr Holbrook continued: "Both types of implant are equally as effective, and have a failure rate of less than one percent – making them extremely effective."