Translated Press Communication About French DES 3rd Gen Court Case

8 Jun

Translated Press Communication

Réseau D.E.S. France

FNATH (association for accident victims)

The other MEDIATOR : the time bomb of DISTILBENE

200 000 women in France were prescribed Distilbène between 1948 and 1977. Their 80 000 daughters have suffered from cancers, sterility, and thousands of miscarriages. The law recognised the responsability of the UCB Pharma pharmaceutical companies after 20 years of proceedings. Now, the 3rd generation, the children of “Distilbène daughters”, born prematurely, with handicaps, are also asking for compensation. AFter having condemned UCB Pharma in a first law-suit, a second hearing, on 9th June, will show if the law confirms this decision.

Hélène was born in 1958. Her mother was prescribed Distilbène during her pregnancy, thus making her one of the 80 000 French “Distilbène” daughters. In 1990, during the 6th month of her pregnancy, Hélène gave birth to Louis, very premature and suffering from severe consequences : his handicap has been assessed at 80% : he can neither read nor count, he moves in a wheel-chair and needs a constant presence. He is yet another victim of the Distilbène taken by his grandmother in 1958.

A long struggle with Justice

The first Distilbène law-cases took place twenty years ago in 1991, for CCA cancer cases (Clear Cell Adencarcinoma, a rare cancer, is a consequence of an in utero exposition to diethylstilboestrol – or DES). In 2006, the highest law-court, as a matter of principle, condemned the pharmaceutical company UCB Pharma for their lack of diligence in commercialising Distilbène.

In 2002, Hélène, in her own name, attacked UCB Pharma, bringing proof of her in utero exposition to Distilbène. The law-court dismissed the case, with no medical assessment, as the delay for going to court of 10 years after knowledge of damages, had passed.

In 2005, she again attacked UCB Pharma, in her son’s name, bringing the proof of his exposition to Distilbène during her pregnancy : a medical assessment was made which concluded that :

– Hélène’s morphological handicaps where both the consequence of her in utero exposition to Distilbène and the sole cause of her premature delivery.

– Louis’ entire handicaps were direct and certain consequences of his prematurity. No other cause (illness or accident)was found for his handicap. During the law-case, UCB Pharma announced that if they were condemned, they would appeal against the decision.

On 10th April 2009, the court recognised the prejudice from which the child was a victim, esteeming that “by neglecting the warnings published in the medical and scientific literature from 1939 to 19621, the pharmaceutical companies had lacked vigilance and diligence, an attitude to be condemned and directly committing their responsability”. In this case, UCB Pharma were condemned to pay more that two million euros in damages to Louis’ family.

Now, after the pleadings on 7th April 2011, the Versailles appeal-court will give its verdict on 9th June.

Let’s hope that the first decision will be confirmed and, further than the essential recognition of the responsability of UCB Pharma, that Hélène will be able to say, as she did after the first judgment : “Now I can sleep at night knowing that my son’s future is guaranteed”. This decision is all the more awaited as other families, whose children are suffering from heavy handicaps as a result of the severe prematurity linked to DES, have taken up law-cases, some being imminent.

N.B. in France, Distilbène and Stilboestrol (commercial name for the synthetic hormone diethylstilboestrol – abreviation DES) were prescribed to 200 000 pregnant women to prevent miscarriages. 160 000 children were born from these pregnancies.

Press contacts : Réseau D.E.S. France : Anne Levadou, President and Nathalie Lafaye, secretariat 06 77 42 33 79

E-mail :

Site web:

FNATH : Arnaud de Broca, general secretary : 01 45 35 31 87 or 06 20 51 04 83


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