Maitland pharmacies are being urged to join a groundswell of Sydney chemists in displaying a 1950s poster recommending the controversial anti-miscarriage drug diethylstilboestrol, which has subsequently been linked to various medical conditions.
In a joint project with students from Macquarie University, DES Action NSW is asking pharmacists to display the historic DES posters at their scripts-in counters to prompt people to find out about problems associated with exposure to diethylstilboestrol (DES).
So far 75 Sydney pharmacies have agreed to take part in the project but according to DES Action NSW co-ordinator Carol Devine the participation needs to be more widespread.
“If you do see a poster at your pharmacy please call the number to receive information about DES exposure and the medical issues associated with it. Then you can help us by answering a short questionnaire,” Ms Devine, a DES daughter, said.
“We are hoping this survey project will provide a valuable benchmark for awareness and educational campaigns in Australian about DES.”
Ms Devine said at least 18 possible Maitland DES-affected women had made contact with the action group.
The first week of June is DES Awareness Week with efforts being increased to share information about harmful effects of diethylstilboestrol, which was prescribed to pregnant women to prevent miscarriage but harmed the mothers, and children born of those pregnancies.
An estimated 740,000 Australians are believed to have been exposed to DES from 1940-1970 and, in some cases, later.
Touted as a wonder drug, DES was prescribed to pregnant women and later found to increase the risk of certain cancers and reproductive problems in those women prescribed DES and the children of that pregnancy.
A study – published by the New England Journal of Medicine – found daughters of women who took DES faced a greater chance of being infertile and developing a rare vaginal cancer.
Researchers at the National Cancer Institute in the United States studied 6500 women, including 4600 exposed to DES, and found the daughters with exposure to DES in the womb had an increased risk of 12 medical conditions.
They were twice as likely to be infertile and had a five-fold increased risk of having a pre-term delivery.
Australian DES campaigners believe about 185,000 Australian women were exposed to the drug in utero and want the federal government to better educate the daughters of women who took the drug about the need for annual cancer checks.