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France - Germany

Apology to Thalidomide victims 50 years later

AFP PHOTO/Heckmann

Victims of the drug thalidomide, have finally received an apology 50 years later from German drug company Grunenthal on Friday.


Harald Stock, the executive director of Grunenthal, said the company was “truly sorry” for its nearly years of silence.

Towards the end of the 1950s and early 60s, it was the drug of choice for pregnant women suffering from morning sickness. The drug was touted as a ‘marvelous sedative’ in 1956, and its biggest buyers were Japan, Canada and Germany. In total, nearly 46 countries had approved Thalidomide.

However, it had devastating and irreversible effects on the fetus. Nearly 10,000 to 20,000 people were born missing segments of their legs or arms, because their mothers were prescribed thalidomide.

France was one of the few countries that allowed its sale for a short time, just towards the end of December 1961. However it was strictly controlled and was soon pulled off the market after its effects were questioned.

France is one of the few countries that has very little, if any victims from the anti-nausea drug.

Sales of thalidomide were eventually stopped in 1962.

Today, thalidomide is being studied for its effectiveness in treating autoimmune diseases, such as leprosy, lupus erythematosus, and a rare form of bone marrow cancer. It is also used in treating inflammatory diseases such as Crohn’s.

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