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Tuesday, 12 November 1974
Page: 2229

Senator WHEELDON (Western AustraliaMinister for Repatriation and Compensation) - Neither locusts nor tariffs nor 3-inch building nails fall within the ambit of my responsibilities. However, intra-uterine devices do so I shall confine myself to the matters raised by Senator Baume. If I understood him correctly- I think I did- the matter raised by him concerns the use of the drug rauwolfia which it appears has a causal relationship to breast cancer.

Senator Baume - It may have.

Senator WHEELDON - It may have a relationship to breast cancer. He referred also to the use of certain intra-uterine contraceptive devices which appear to cause septic abortions and in some cases death. The position apparently is that the National Drug Evaluation Committee has sent a circular to medical practitioners asking for any evidence they may have or any views they may have on the relationship of this drug and these devices to the unfortunate consequences to which he referred. I understood Senator Baume to be saying that there already could be sufficient evidence to make it appear that rauwolfia and these devices are unsafe and that something more should be done than just collect evidence at this stage. I can only say that my knowledge of these technical matters is considerably less than that of Senator Baume but I think that the matter he has brought up is of some national concern. I believe it has been acknowledged to be a matter of national concern by the National Drug Evaluation Committee because of the action it has taken already in corresponding with medical practitioners. I shall ask the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) to let me have a statement on the important matters raised by Senator Baume this afternoon and as soon as I have received it I shall seek leave to make a statement to the Senate so that Senator Baume and others who are interested may be informed of what position the Minister for Health takes.

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