German firm apologizes 50 years later for drug that caused 1960s birth defects
Thalidomide, developed by the German firm Gruenenthal, was marketed internationally to pregnant women in the late 1950s and early 1960s as a treatment for morning sickness.
BERLIN − The German manufacturer that produced the morning-sickness drug thalidomide has issued an apology to the thousands of people born with malformed limbs more than 50 years ago due to the drug’s use.
Thalidomide, developed by the German firm Gruenenthal, was marketed internationally to pregnant women in the late 1950s and early 1960s as a treatment for morning sickness. About 10,000 babies were born around the world with defects caused by the drug, mostly malformed limbs or missing arms or legs.
Gruenenthal, which says it had paid roughly 500 million euros to victims by 2010, unveiled a commemorative statue on Friday.
Many thalidomide victims stayed away from the unveiling of Gruenenthal’s statue, which portrays a child with shortened arms, calling it a public relations stunt.
At the ceremony, Gruenenthal’s chief executive, Harald Stock, said the company was sorry for what had happened to the victims.
“We ask that you see our long speechlessness as a sign of the silent shock that your fate has caused us,” Stock said.
An Australian woman whose daughter won a multi-million dollar settlement in July against Diageo Plc, the legal successor to thalidomide’s Australian distributor, said the apology was an insult.
“It’s the sort of apology you give when you’re not really sorry,” said Wendy Rowe. The Rowe family’s legal firm, Slater i Gordon, called the drug manufacturer’s apology “pathetic”: “It is too little, too late and riddled with further deceit.”
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