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Possible product liability with pregnancy complication prevention drug

A new study shows forty years after a drug called DES was taken off of the market because of adverse consequences to babies, the effects of the drug are still being felt in the grandchildren of the women who used the drug. The history and effects of the drug over multiple generations of people illustrates the importance of product liability law.

DES stands for diethylstilbestrol and the drug was prescribed to prevent pregnancy complications in the middle of the 20th century. Four decades ago the use of the drug was terminated because research showed that girls who were exposed to the drug in utero acquired a very high risk of developing cancer in the vagina. Studies issued afterward showed girls whose mothers took DES were more likely to have fertility problems and birth defects.

This week forty years after the initial research French researchers report that grandsons of women who took DES are more likely to have deformed urethras. The deformation to the male urethra is called hypospadia where the urethra, which is the tube that transports urine, ends close to the scrotum or along the penis instead of ending at the tip of the penis.

The French research suggest that boys who have been exposed to the drug by their mother have a three percent chance of having the defect whereas no cases of hypospadia were found in boys who were not exposed to DES. Looking at the next generation, boys whose grandmothers took the drug had an eight percent chance of having the defect. The only grandsons who had the malformation were individuals whose mother had been exposed to the drug prenatally.

Source: MSNBC.com, “Grandsons may be affected by old pregnancy drug,” 4/20/11

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