Friday 20 January 2012


Fourteen drug companies in the US have been ordered to begin mediation immediately to compensate 53 women who claim their breast cancers were caused by the anti-miscarriage drug diethylstilboestrol (DES). There are an estimated 740,000 Australian mothers, daughters and sons affected by the drug, which has been found to double a DES daughter's chance of developing breast cancer.

DES was manufactured and sold primarily from 1940 to 1971. It has been linked to rare reproductive cancers, infertility and breast cancer in the daughters born to women who were prescribed it. It was made by numerous pharmaceutical firms, including Eli Lilly and Company, which was the largest producer, and E.R. Squibb and Sons, the predecessor to Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Carol Devine, coordinator of DES Action group, says this case sets a precedent for people affected by DES in the US and around the world. "We are often asked about legal compensation on DES matters, so this is heartening news for Australian DES daughters who have had breast cancer diagnosis,"she says.

"There has already been successful litigation in 2008 by an Australian DES daughter in US court against DES drug companies for her diagnosed clear cell adenocarcinoma which left her infertile after a radical hysterectomy."

In agreement with DES Action USA and the College Statement by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Carol Devine urges DES daughters to be aware of their increased breast cancer risk once they hit forty and to have annual breast screening.

"This ruling against the drug companies is a wake-up call for the government to promote DES information directly to Australians in public health programs, especially since the majority of DES-affected are still unaware of DES and the associated health care they need."

Jackie White, of Centerburg, OH, is one of the plaintiffs in the case. She, like the other so-called DES daughters, was exposed to DES before birth. "I am just over the moon at this decision," she says. "It is time for the drug companies who harmed us to be held accountable for this bad drug."

Washington DC Attorney Aaron Levine called upon a team of expert witnesses including the Chair of Harvard's Department of Epidemiology, and other scientists from academic institutions such as Georgetown University and the University of Paris to support the reliability of their experts and their opinions that prenatal DES exposure substantially increases the risk of breast cancer in DES daughters over the age of forty.

For more information about DES contact DES Action Australia-NSW by phoning 02 98754820 or visiting

For more information contact:
Carol Devine, DES Action Australia-NSW
P: (02) 98754820

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