Irish survivors reject apology from German manufacturer of devastating Thalidomide drug
Company told to put “their money where their mouth is” 50 years after drug disaster
The Irish survivors of Thalidomide has rejected an apology from the German company, The Grünenthal Group, who invented the drug which called birth defects to thousands of babies in the 1950s and 1960s.
The German company released a statement on Friday which said it “regrets” the consequences of the drug. Thalidomide was sued to combat morning sickness in expecting mothers but instead lead to serious birth defects and in many cases death. Thousands of children were born without limbs.
The Irish Thalidomide Association called the apology as meaningless.
In a statement they said “Grünenthal have issued an apology while saying they did no wrong, this is meaningless.
“The Irish Government have compounded this by refusing both an apology and an acknowledgment of wrongdoing when they failed to have proper regulation of drugs and failed to remove the drug from the shelves for almost a year after all other countries had removed it.”
The Irish Thalidomide Survivors’ Society also rejected the apology.
They said “An apology will not give us back our childhood, or wrap full-length arms around our children or grandchildren to console them when they are crying.
“It will not act as a painkiller when we are awake at nights suffering horrendous pain that no painkiller can cure. It cannot give us dignity when our spouses and personal assistants need to help us change our clothes use the toilet or have a bath.
“For some it will not allow us to have a normal basic social, lads’ or girls’ night out without a mammoth planning exercise. It will not provide the finances to adapt are homes our cars or even have are clothes made to suit our damaged. it can not get our provide us with wheelchairs or any other helping tools to stop more deterioration in are bodies.”
In the UK the Thalidomide Agency also rejected the apology. The agency’s head consultant Freddie Astbury said the company needs to put their money where their mouth is”.
Astbury was born in Chester in 1959 with no arms and no legs.
He said “If they are serious about admitting they are at fault and regret what happened they need to start helping those of us who were affected financially.”
Chief executive of Gruenenthal, Harald Stock, released a statement expressing the company’s “sincere regrets about the consequences of thalidomide and our deep sympathy for all those affected, their mothers and their families.”
Fifty-years after the fact he expressed the company’s regret.
He said "Instead, we have been silent and we are very sorry for that.”
In 2009 Gruenenthal pledged 50 million euros to help more of those survivors and their families affected.
On the company website he said “We see both the physical hardship and the emotional stress that the affected, their families and particularly their mothers, had to suffer because of thalidomide and still have to endure day by day," he said. "We wish that the thalidomide tragedy had never happened."
In 1961 the drug was pulled from the market when it was proven that it was linked to birth defects. Many of the drug’s survivors have only recently received compensation.
The drug was taken in Ireland and there were 32 survivors born with birth defects. In the UK there are currently 458 people who were affected by the drug. However for every baby that survived there were ten who died. Overall 10,000 children around the world were affected by the drug.
Originally the drug was sold as a “wonder drug” for morning sickness, headaches, coughs, insomnia and colds. The babies often suffered from missing or deformed limbs, malformations of the eyes and ears, genitals, heart, kidneys and digestive tract.
Here’s a short educational video on the drug issued by the Irish Thalidomide Survivors Association:
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