Letter: Precipitate action on Pill

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The Independent Online
From Dr Brian G. Hands

Sir: I wish to express my disquiet about the way the Secretary of State for Health handled the withdrawal of the "dangerous" oral contraceptives.

There was no need to precipitate anxieties bordering on hysteria by asking women to present to their GPs in their current month's supply, thus suggesting that there was a degree of urgency. A large number of women have been on these pills for a considerable number of years and it would have been reasonable to advise them to see their GPs as their renewals became due. It is also debatable whether one should act on unpublished data.

On the other hand, there is a good deal of published data to suggest that older antidepressants have a dreadful incidence of fatality in overdose as compared with the newer. This is far greater than the increased thrombosis risk with any oral contraceptives but there has been no attempt to blacklist the dangerous older drugs. The cost of the newer drugs is about 10 times greater than that of the older.

As there has not been a similar move to ban the more dangerous cheap drugs, perhaps the cynics who say the oral contraceptive bans have a cost- saving element (about pounds 25m) do have a point.

Yours sincerely,

Brian G. Hands

Willington, Derbyshire

23 October