Two New Zealand woman who took a pregnancy testing drug linked to birth defects have contacted Medsafe.

Women who took the hormone-based pregnancy-test pill Primodos had a higher chance of having children with severe deformities or other serious health problems, new evidence from the United Kingdom at the weekend showed.

Pharmaceutical company Bayer, however, has denied the drug was responsible for causing deformities in children.

Medsafe confirmed this week the drug had been available in New Zealand until it was banned in 1975.


Medsafe manager Chris James said as of yesterday afternoon the organisation had been contacted by a small number of people, including two women who were prescribed the product when it was available in the country.

Healthline had also received three calls related to Primodos but none were directly from women who had been prescribed the product, he said. The callers were either asking about possible effects or the advice being given to women.

When initial contact was made, more details would be sent to the Ministry of Health and, with permission, the person may be referred to the Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring, James said.

Medsafe would not provide further information about the nature of the effects on the woman who had come forward, he said.

Women's Health Action Trust had also been approached by women and family members who had likely been affected by the use of Primodos in New Zealand, acting director Isis McKay said.

"We are working with Medsafe and the Ministry of Health to help women and their families understand what is known about the use of Primodos in New Zealand, and to help make sure they get the support and information they need."

In a statement Bayer said litigation in the UK against manufacturer Schering (which is now owned by Bayer) ended in 1982 when the claimants' legal team decided to discontinue the litigation on the grounds there was no realistic possibility of showing Primodos caused the congenital abnormalities alleged.

"Since the discontinuation of legal action in the UK in 1982, no new scientific knowledge has been produced which would call into question the validity of the previous assessment of there being no link between use of Primodos and the occurrence of congenital abnormalities," the statement said.

"Based on the facts and on the law, Bayer does not accept that Primodos was responsible for causing congenital abnormalities".