Doctor calls for 'drug alert' reform

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The Independent Online

A Canadian doctor who condemned government advice to 1.5 million women to change their Pill because of blood clot fears, yesterday renewed the attack and backed calls for a new "drug alert" system.

Professor Walter Spitzer, an expert on the "third generation" oral contraceptives at the centre of a big health scare in October, said that "much more care needs to be taken" when informing the public about the relative risk of various drugs.

Professor Spitzer had accused the Government of "doing very great harm" when it issued a warning based on three unpublished studies which showed that women taking the newest Pills, containing synthetic progestogens, were twice as likely to suffer a blood clot as women on older brands.

The risk was still half of that associated with pregnancy, but doctors were besieged with calls from anxious women although few had had any previous warning of the alert and did not know the full reasons for it.

Commenting on the formal publication of some of the research in today's issue of the Lancet, Professor Spitzer said: "Much more care needs to be taken so that the practitioners who advise . . . patients . . . can be fully briefed and have the full opportunity to study the issues before they are confronted by an onslaught of inquiries."

The Lancet urges the Government to review its alert system. Dr Richard Horden, editor, yesterday said the Pill alert was particularly badly handled.