Women sue over contraceptive

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The Independent Online
AT LEAST 250 women claiming to have suffered serious side effects from the contraceptive implant Norplant are to sue the distributors, it was revealed yesterday.

Women who have used the contraceptive, which provides birth control cover for up to five years, had until yesterday to lodge their claims for compensation.

More than 500 women concerned about the alleged side effects of the contraceptive, which ranged from depression and paranoia to weight gain and hair loss, have contacted a helpline set up at the beginning of June by an umbrella group of solicitors.

Known as the "fit and forget" contraceptive, Norplant is used by two million women worldwide. It consists of six matchstick-sized rods worn under the skin of the upper arm which release the hormone levonorgestrel. They cannot be seen but can be felt. Doctors have to be trained in insertion and removal.

Alida Coates, a solicitor with Irwin Mitchell, said that of the women who have come forward, a writ had been issued on behalf of at least 250. A test case of 10 women against the suppliers of Norplant in this country, Hoechst Marion Roussel Ltd, is expected to be heard early next year at the High Court.

"Ten cases will be selected to go ahead to trial in the New Year," said Ms Coates. "These cases will be representative of the cases as a whole. Most of the issues will be dealt with in these 10 cases and if the cases are successful, I would expect that the majority of the remaining cases will be dealt with through negotiations."

A spokesman for Hoechst Marion Roussel Ltd said the company was standing by its product.

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