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Stillbirth after acne drug wrongly prescribed

View profile for Judith Thomas-Whittingham
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A couple from Cambridgeshire have received an undisclosed amount of compensation after severe abnormalities were caused to their unborn daughter when her mother was prescribed an acne drug during pregnancy.

Sarah Sharma was given isotretinoin, an acne treatment, by staff at Peterborough City Hospital. The British National Formulary and manufacturer guidelines recommend that it is not used during pregnancy due to the risk that it can harm the unborn baby. For this reason, the guidance recommends that women use at least one, if not two, effective forms of contraception, such as an oral contraceptive, for at least one month before starting isotretinoin to ensure that they are not pregnant.

Mrs Sharma did not know that she was in the very early stages of pregnancy when she started taking isotretinoin and staff at Peterborough City Hospital only did one pregnancy test, which was negative.

As a result of Mrs Sharma taking the isotretinoin, Mr and Mrs Sharma’s baby developed heart and nervous system abnormalities that were picked up at the 20 week scan. The condition, known as foetal retinoid syndrome, meant that their unborn daughter, who they named Indiya, would not survive after birth, and was stillborn at 21 weeks.

John Randall, Medical Director at Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said “as a result of lessons learned from this incident, our procedures have changed so that any drug treatment will only commence following two negative pregnancy test results taken a month apart, when women have been using appropriate contraception in line with guidance.”