The Story of a Worldwide Drug Disaster
Diethylstilbestrol (or DES in short) is a synthetic oestrogen, prescribed to millions of pregnant women around the world in the mistaken belief that it would reduce the risk of complications during pregnancy and losses. It was widely prescribed between 1938 and 1971 in the USA but despite evidence of its ineffectiveness and danger it continued to be used beyond 1971. In some countries it was given until at least the early 1980s.
In 1971, researchers found that women who were exposed to DES before they were born are more likely to get a certain kind of cancer of the vagina and cervix (called clear cell adenocarcinoma, or CCA). These women are called “DES Daughters“. Later studies have shown side effects for men exposed who are called “DES Sons“.
As if it wasn’t bad enough, DES is also associated with a higher risk of infertility, ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage and preterm labor. Many DES daughters are now over 40, and the risk of breast cancer associated with DES exposure is also higher so is the risk in DES mothers who took the drug.
How did that happen? In 1971, the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning but did not ban the drug. DES which had already been used for years continued to be prescribed harming 3 generations of women (and two generations of men). The health and psychological problems in sons and daughters of those women who were prescribed DES are still unfolding and studies are currently being carried out on the grandchildren of the women who took DES during their pregnancy making DES a real time-bomb.
“DES is the story of the failure of the medical profession, health authorities and drug companies to face up to the problem and take action. This story is not only of past failure – crucial measures needed to deal with the time – bomb effects are still being ignored” says Marian Vickers, a DES daughter.
DES is also my story. 30 years after I was exposed to this toxic and carcinogenic drug, I experienced some of the devastating side effects this drug can have. For more information about Diethylstilbestrol and my personal DES journey visit “Diethylstilbestrol, Journal of a DES Daughter“ , a blogsite for DES mothers, daughters and sons, and others interested in the DES issue.
DES Daughter Network, is the little sister of my “Journal of a DES Daughter” but focuses on social media and social networking.