A compensation claim by 275 British women over alleged side effects of the contraceptive implant Norplant has collapsed after legal aid funding was withdrawn.

The decision by the Legal Aid Board again throws into question the role of the English court system to try medical claims.

Opponents to the existing process argue that it is too cumbersome and expensive for the purpose, a view that was endorsed by the Board, which withdrew further funding because they felt that the chance of success did not justify the high cost of the trial.

Had it gone ahead, the claim against Hoechst Marion Roussel, the UK distributor of Norplant, would have been the first attempt under the Consumer Protection Act of 1987 to put a prescription only medicine on trial as a defective product.

The women were alleging that the implant caused a range of problems, including lengthy periods, acne, hair loss, mood swings, migraines, blurred vision and difficulties in removal (BMJ, 1999; 318: 485).

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Written by What Doctors Don't Tell You

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