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Friday, 18 April 2014

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Expert wants drug ban after Cumbrian mum brain damaged

One of the country’s leading medical negligence experts has called for a ban on the use of a potent ulcer drug on pregnant women after it left a Cumbrian mum with catastrophic brain damage.

Nicola Crelling and her husband Steven

Related: Hospital blunder left Cumbrian mum brain damaged

Nicola Crelling, 35, will need full-time care for the rest of her life after the drug Misoprostol (or Cytotec) left her unable to walk, talk, or do anything for herself.

An adoring mother of three sons, aged 11, seven, and two, she was given a huge overdose of the drug by medics who wanted to induce the birth of her fourth son who had died in her womb. She was seven months pregnant.

North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust has now admitted its treatment of Mrs Crelling at the West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven in 2004 was negligent. Nicola’s furious husband Steve, 48, believes she was given Misoprostol because it was cheaper than licensed alternatives.

The tragedy has highlighted the widespread NHS practice of using drugs to treat conditions they were not designed for.

It also emerged this week that the makers of Misoprostol issued a warning four years before Mrs Crelling’s brain injury that the drug should not be used on pregnant women because it had already caused the deaths of mothers and babies in America.

Top doctors in the UK have defended their use of the drug to induce childbirth, but they fear some maternity units are continuing to give women potentially dangerous overdoses.

But Bill Braithwaite QC, who worked on Mrs Crelling’s case with Cumbrian law firm KJ Commons & Co, said the use of Misoprostol on pregnant women should be banned.

He said: “It ought to be banned completely until two things happen. Firstly, it should not be used in this way until the manufacturer, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and the National Institute of Clinical Excellence have all concluded that it’s suitable for inducing labour; and secondly they should ban its use until they have resolved what is the appropriate dosage.”

Mr Braithwaite said that unlike more expensive alternative drugs for inducing labour, Misoprostol tended to accumulate in the body, making overdose more likely.

Since 2008, national guidelines have meant the drug can only be used if pregnant women have given “informed consent”.

But Mr Braithwaite added: “I can’t believe that patients are being alerted to the risk because if they were they wouldn’t agree.”

North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust said that it no longer uses Misoprostol as it did in 2004 and that its medics follow the national guidelines.

Mrs Crelling’s sister Jolene Parker, 30, said: “They should never have used that drug on Nicola, especially since there had been a warning. It shouldn’t be used on any pregnant woman.

Workington MP Tony Cunningham has also called for an NHS review of how doctors use Misoprostol.


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