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The Sunday Times

Ministers curb use

of 'miracle drug'

The Sunday Times, July 9 1995

Victims of the antibacterial Septrin plan to step up their campaign to curb its use after the government last week advised doctors to restrict the drug to a range of uncommon illnesses, writes Brian Deer.

Septrin, known generically as co-trimoxazole, is at the centre of growing concerns after an investigation last year by The Sunday Times linked it to deaths and injuries. Since that report, more than 1,000 people have complained of harmful side-effects.

The drug, regarded as a miracle cure during the 1980s, has been prescribed to an estimated one in three of the population, usually for chest or urinary tract infections. However, the Department of Health last week ordered that its use be restricted to less common ailments. Campaigners said that while such a ban would save lives, it did nothing for those who were unwell.

"We need medical help to sort out what's wrong with us," said Kate Reid, who had the issue raised in parliament last March.

Ministers refused to act against the drug earlier this year, on advice from the Medicines Control Agency. But last Thursday, Tom Sackville, a junior health minister, reversed the ruling after the intervention of senior doctors.

Glaxo-Wellcome said this weekend that it would amend the drug's official information sheet, but insisted the product still had a role in treating serious infections.


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