George Freeman welcomes Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review

21st February 2018

George Freeman welcomes the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care’s announcement of a Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review – focussing on the pregnancy test drug Primodos, the use of vaginal mesh and the anti-epilepsy drug Sodium Valproate.

I welcome the review and the announcement of Baroness Cumberlege as its lead. I am sure the whole House will agree that she is, as the Secretary of State said, highly qualified and trusted. I pay tribute to the many hundreds of thousands of women who have suffered in silence and campaigned so effectively. As the Minister who surprised a few in announcing the Primodos working group, setting up the sodium valproate taskforce, with my right hon. Friend, and brokering the deal on the Saatchi Bill, I have seen the passion and the silent suffering with which so many women have had to live. He is absolutely right that for too long the medical establishment has tended to link arms and act very protectively when challenged, and we need to make sure that the patient voice is put right at the heart of this.

Will the Secretary of State agree with two points? First, does he agree that it is important that this does not become some legal witch hunt, but starts as a review of the evidence, the science and the clinical data in order to avoid future patient suffering? If it is couched in terms of legal liability, everyone will draw in and resist the sharing of evidence that is so key. Secondly, will he look at training? On mesh, the MHRA has licensed the device, but my understanding is that the problem is often with the training of clinicians in its installing. We need an intelligent healthcare system that uses everyday data to support patient safety.

I would like to put on the record my thanks to my hon. Friend for the work he did as a Minister in my Department that led to the setting up of the expert working group, which I think has taken this issue forward and which he championed. His experience of the life sciences industry was incredibly helpful. I take on board both his points. It is absolutely right that this needs to focus on patient safety and how we put in place processes that help people suffering now and avoid it happening in the future. His point about training is a very good one.

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