“$90m payout over child abuse”
Jamie Doward, social affairs editor
Sunday February 8, 2004
The pharmaceutical giant behind the controversial drug cisapride, whose side-effects on young children may have led to false accusations of abuse against their parents, is to pay out millions of pounds in compensation.
The payments will raise further questions about the controversial theory of Munchausen's Syndrome By Proxy (MSBP), which suggests that some parents harm their children to draw attention to themselves.
Anti-MSBP campaigners have pressed for a full inquiry into the drug, alleging that it has resulted in paediatricians wrongly diagnosing abuse.
Now it has emerged that the United States-based Janssen Pharmaceutica, which markets cisapride under the brand name Propulsid, is to offer up to $90 million (£49m) to settle claims involving 4,000 individuals affected by the drug, of whom 300 are alleged to have died.
A further 12,000 people who are thought to be considering lawsuits would be eligible to claim.
Cisapride is used to treat digestive problems. It was taken off the US and UK markets three years ago amid concerns about its side-effects which include interrupting the heartbeat of patients.
The drug has been blamed for scores of 'near death experiences' among young children in which they display symptoms usually associated with smothering. Critics say that it may have led to hundreds of wrong diagnoses.
Doctors who once prescribed cisapride say that the number of Munchausen diagnoses has dropped dramatically since it was taken off the market in the UK.
The agreement involving Janssen 'requires all participating plaintiffs to submit medical records to a court-appointed independent medical panel. The medical panel will determine whether the claimed injuries were caused by Propulsid'.
Child psychologist Lisa Blakemore-Brown said that Janssen's decision would refocus the debate on child abuse. It was time for experts to consider what other factors may have led to mistaken charges against parents.
'The clear evidence of severe side-effects of this one drug alone which has been implicated in MSBP cases should be enough to make the sceptical want to hear more about cases which have not examined other possible causes,' she said.