A WOMAN who was prescribed a drug to treat her epilepsy claims it made her go blind.
Gail Wade, 53, of Day Street, Aspley, Huddersfield, started having epileptic fits after being involved in a car accident 23 years ago.
Now Mrs Wade and more than 130 others who have lost their sight have started High Court action against a drugs firm.
Mrs Wade was prescribed Vigabatrin, a drug doctors believed would help control her fits and seizures, in 1997.
The drug came on to the market in 1989 and helped thousands of epileptics lead nearly normal lives.
But Mrs Wade soon noticed problems with her eyesight.
"When I was crossing roads I realised I would not see cars coming until the very last second if at all," she said.
"I heard about fears that the drug caused sight problems and my doctor started to take me off it gradually.
"Because it is such a strong drug I could not come off it straight away but by then it was too late. I am now registered as blind."
Kent-based Aventis Pharma, which produces Vigabatrin, claims the drug is safe.
However, the company now includes a warning on the packaging stating a high number of people who take the drug have developed some form of blindness.
Because of her illness, Mrs Wade was forced to give up her job in the pathology department at the Royal Hal- ifax Infirmary in 1999 and now, because of her loss of sight, she can never return to work.
Mrs Wade's husband, Dale, 45, is her full-time carer. She has one daughter, Joanne, aged 25.
Mrs Wade said of the legal battle: "I am not bothered about any money or damages I might get from the company if we win - that is not the point.
"The reason I am willing to fight this is because it should not have happened. The tests should be in place to make sure drugs are safe.
"I am sure there are more people who have not realised a drug they thought was helping them could have been sending them blind.
"I am a strong person. I have not let this get me down too much. I still go out and do things as best I can but some people would not be able to fight it like I have.
"I was told this was a wonder-drug and would improve my standard of life. In the end it has made it worse. Now even simple pleasures like reading and watching TV have been taken away from me.
"I don't know why this drug was allowed to be used or if the testing was not good enough but something has gone wrong at some point and someone should be made to take responsibility for that."
Mrs Wade's solicitor, Tim Roper, a partner in Plymouth law firm Wolfenstans is dealing with the claims of all the people who have come forward.
He said: "I think it is vital that justice is done for these people.
"The first I heard about Vigabatrin was in 1999 when a man walked into my office suffering from a loss of sight. Since then we have been amazed at the number of people coming forward with the same problem.
"Experts agree there is a big problem with this drug, it was never even approved for sale in the US."
The High Court has made September 17 the cut-off date for claims.
A spokesman for Aventis Pharma would confirm only that the company would fight the cases.