The BBC Today programme reports of children in their early teens who were sedated in Kendall House, Gravesend, Kent, Church of England care homes in the 1970s and 80s producing offspring with birth defects.
The precise drugs were not spelled out in the Today programme, although Sparine (Promazine) and Valium (Diazepam) are mentioned but we can reasonably assume that they include major tranquillizers (Chlorpomazine, Haloperidol &c) antidepressants (Imipramine, Amitriptylene) and anti-Parkinson drugs such as Ophenadrine, Benzhexol and Procyclidine, because they were the standard issue drugs at that time.
The next step from the point of view of medical science should be to review the pregnancy of all mothers of children with birth defects to find out how many of them were given these drugs. Policy change should not have to await the conclusion of the science. The Bradford Hill Criteria are guidelines for deciding whether agent A caused condition B, but they are rarely applied systematically, since authority prefers to play around with the "no scientific proof" red herring that gullible corporate journalists are only too keen to buy into.
The data collected so far, 10 cases from Kendle House alone, means that there is a prima facie case for banning the use of drugs on girls, by the application of the Precautionary Principle.
Each woman has a finite number of eggs in her ovaries. The pregnancies occurred a number of years after the drugs were given, so it looks as if drugs given at that time affect the woman's whole stock of eggs. It seems from the Today report that the cases were collected by former Kendall House resident Teresa Cooper, whose three children all have birth defects. She set about contacting other previous residents, and has come up with this data. This is not the first time that important, ground-breaking ecological data has been discovered by non-scientists, and Teresa Cooper should be applauded for her work.
We can expect the pharmaceutical industry, the Church of England and the Department of Health to begin a long process of denial, obfuscation and delay, which will rely on "getting scientific proof" that the drugs caused the defects. This approach is wrong. There is no such thing as scientific proof, and the precautionary principle should be applied while research takes place.
This raises the question of how to treat psychologically disturbed children, or at least girls, without drugs. To be fair, drugs are used much less on children than before. There is evidence that they react differently to some psychoactive drugs:
A statistical analysis of paroxetine clinical trials in children and adolescents was conducted by the FDA in 2004. It indicated a statistically significant 2.7-fold raise in suicide behavior and ideation as compared to placebo. The trend for increased suicidality was observed in both trials for depression and for anxiety disorders.
Modern CBT psychotherapy is far more effective than the approaches we had in the 1970s. I would add to this the technique called "Cutting the ties" , which is an imaging technique that I and many others have found highly effective for overcoming the undue, negative influence of powerful persons in the child's life. Traumatic events (PTSD) can also be neutralised using the Mindfield's "Rewind" technique.
So. Another scandal unfolds, and the various authorities that we pay to look after our interests will be busy reaching for the broom and lifting the corner of the scientific carpet, instead of applying the principles of reason and humanity to the situation.