Thalidomide maker apologises 50 years on

2012-09-01 14:20

London - The German firm that made thalidomide has issued its first apology in over 50 years to the thousands born disabled as a result of the drug's use, but a victims' charity called for more tangible action.

Grunenthal's chief executive Harald Stock said in a speech on Friday that his company was "very sorry" for its silence towards the victims of the drug, which was sold to pregnant women as a cure for morning sickness in the 1950s and early 1960s.

An estimated 10 000 children worldwide were born with defects - including missing limbs - after their mothers took thalidomide, which was sold in nearly 50 countries before being pulled from the market in 1961.

In a translated copy of the German text published on Grunenthal's website, Stock said he wanted to express his company's "sincere regrets" and "deep sympathy" to all those affected, "their mothers and their families".

"We ask that you regard our long silence as a sign of the shock that your fate has caused us," Stock said in the speech.

"We also apologise for the fact that we have not found the way to you, from person to person, for almost 50 years."

Stock delivered the speech at the inauguration of a special memorial to thalidomide victims in Stolberg, western Germany, where the company is based.

He said that the drug "was taken by many women who had no reason to imagine that it could seriously harm their unborn children".

Stock said his company was taking steps to help the victims of the drug's use.

"We have learned how important it is that we engage in an open dialogue with those affected and to talk and to listen to them," he said. "We have begun to mutually develop and implement projects with them, to improve their living situation and assist in hardship situations easily and efficiently."

But the apology was rejected as insufficient by the charity Thalidomide Agency UK, which represents people affected by the drug in Britain.

Freddie Astbury, the charity's head consultant, said the company needed to "put their money where their mouth is" rather than simply express regret.

Astbury, who was born in Chester in 1959 without arms or legs after his mother took the drug, 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."

  • tin.can.501598 - 2012-09-01 15:02

    If it were earlier I think if victims could they would applaud this announcement however an apology 50 years on is a little too late !

  • wendysarahsmith - 2012-09-01 15:04

    The wonders of 'modern' medicine.

  • shirley.steenkamp - 2012-09-01 15:23

    Too little,too late!

  • joe.leboe - 2012-09-01 15:29

    Now get the people who make The Pill to also start getting their apologies ready. The truth will soon come out.

      edward.gobey - 2012-09-01 16:44


      nettie.potgieter.5 - 2012-09-01 17:49

      Why are you pregnant?

      yar.wellnofine - 2012-09-02 08:16

      Joel - Happy fathers day

  • david.hill.39750121 - 2012-09-01 17:34

    It is apparent that these pharmaceutical companies have no integrity or any empathy with society in the way that they operate. They cover up and do not disclose to the regulators the sheer damaging side effects of their drugs as in the recent case of GlaxoSmithKline in the USA where they paid out over $3 billion in pre-action damages to stop US authorities issuing legal prosecutions against them We have to go back to the history of the giant pharmaceuticals to see why and where their modern roots lie. An excellent exposé here is Dr David Hill World Innovation Foundation United Kingdom - Switzerland

      nettie.potgieter.5 - 2012-09-01 18:01

      David do you use any medications? If it was not for these componies many million more peopl would have died!

      Aphrodite - 2012-09-03 12:36

      Absolutely correct, David. One just has to google Mercks Vioxx controversy. Merck knew full well that Vioxx had serious cardiovascular side effects, but they decided that profitability was more important than consumer safety. so what did they do...they distorted and left out patients with cardiovascular problems in the clinical trials. Opting instead to run a trial to demonstrate that Vioxx is gentler on the digestive system than Aspirin!!!!!! You are 50% more likely to have a heart attack or sudden cardiac arrest on Vioxx. This is only the tip of the iceberg!!

  • nettie.potgieter.5 - 2012-09-01 17:57

    What we must remember is that any side effects is not Immediat and I am sure that they are very sorry. Think about all suksesfull medications today. Thanks for all companies and people working hard to find ways to heal and prevent illnesses like polio.

  • glenda.mackay.18 - 2012-09-01 18:01

    It's a pity that some of the mothers have not heard them apologise or had financial assistance over the years. TO LATE!

  • spookhuis - 2012-09-01 18:55

    At long sue the "uckers""

  • kgomotso.matlaila - 2012-09-01 23:36

    Why now? 50 years is too long to hold a lip service apology. I also say too little too late.

      Viviane Tavershima - 2012-09-02 10:38

      Thanks Matlaila,its as good as pouring vinegar on wounds.I suggest medical insurance scheme for persons who are known and proven to be affected and share in the grievances of families affected.

  • eddy.deepfield - 2012-09-02 01:58

    Where was God? Why did he not protect the foetus against this drug? No one thought this drug would do what it did. If they did they are evil?

  • marlene.moonsamy - 2012-09-02 04:43

    The biggest improvement that came off this disaster is that clinical research has to now pass many ethical criteria before it is approved worldwide and is also strictly monitored during the entire duration. Pregnancy categories for medicines are also much more defined and transparent now. This tragedy couldn't be undone obviously, but many more such tragedies have been prevented.

      Aphrodite - 2012-09-03 12:38

      You are wrong. Big pharma pay for there own trials. I call that conflict of interest.

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