Medical dye row is settled for pounds 7m

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The Independent Online
CELIA HALL

Medical Editor

A pounds 7m settlement yesterday ended one of the largest personal injury actions to be heard in the English courts. But the out-of-court settlement was condemned as outrageous by activists who now want the case to go to the European courts.

More than 400 patients claimed they suffered from backpain after a dye, Myodil, had been injected into their spines as part of a diagnostic back scan. They alleged that Glaxo Laboratories, the manufacturer of Myodil, had failed to properly research, test and develop Myodil and continued to market the dye after it knew or ought to have known that it was likely to cause injury.

Myodil was used widely in the Sixties and Seventies but was withdrawn in 1987, with Glaxo saying there was a lack of demand. The claimants allege that the dye caused arachnoiditis - inflammation of the arachnoid membrane - which covers the brain and spine. It is a rare condition causing severe pain in the back and legs.

The action was due to be heard in October but yesterday in the High Court Mr Justice May heard that Glaxo Laboratories had, without any admission of liability, reached agreement with the plaintiffs.

A lump sum of pounds 7m is to be distributed among claimants through a steering committee of the Myodil solicitors' group. The company agreed that claimants' reasonable costs would be paid. Daniel Brennan QC, for the plaintiffs, said that of 426 claimants (3,600 originally consulted lawyers) 405 have agreed to accept the terms, 9 have refused and 12 remain to be contacted.

Ron Sheppard, spokesman for the Arachnoiditis Trust, said the settlement was "outrageous". He said: "It leaves each plaintiff with just pounds 16,431. Once the Government has had its claw-back on benefits, the people suffering from this are going to be left with no money whatsoever to help them carry on with the rest of their lives." He added that he hoped the case would be taken to the European Court of Human Rights.

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