After 50 Years of Silence, Manufacturer Apologizes For The Whole Thalidomide Thing

Illustration for article titled After 50 Years of Silence, Manufacturer Apologizes For The Whole Thalidomide Thing

Gruenenthal Group, the company that distributed thalidomide (referred to as Contergan in the manufacturers' native Germany), has finally said "our bad" to those affected by the in-utero use of the drug. Infamously, mothers in the 1950s and '60s who took it for morning sickness during pregnancy often gave birth to children with congenital defects such as shortened or no limbs, as well as disfigured eyes, ears, heart, genitals and internal organs before being pulled from the market in 1961.


Although the company had previously expressed regret to the victims, it had never taken liability until now for the devastating effects of the drug, insisting that they had run it through all of the clinical tests required. Their official apology:

We ask for forgiveness that for nearly 50 years we didn't find a way of reaching out to you from human being to human being. We ask that you regard our long silence as a sign of the shock that your fate caused in us.

The thalidomide victims, now adults who need special equipment and costly care just for their day-to-day (one man born without arms or legs needed a $79,000 car) seem to collectively feel that this isn't a useful reparation for them.

"To suggest that its long silence before today ought to be put down to `silent shock' on its part is insulting nonsense," say members of advocacy groups Thalidomide U.K. and the Association of Contergan Victims. "We invite them to sit around the table with us to see how far their apology will go. I don't think they've ever realized the impact they've had on peoples' lives."

'Thalidomide-maker ends 50-year silence with apology to victims' [CTV News]



These days Thalidomide is used to treat multiple myeloma - cancer of the bone marrow/blood plasma. When my late husband was prescribed Thalidomide we were (understandably) shocked. The process of getting the drug was onerous - he had to fill out a form every month, swearing he wouldn't have unprotected sex with a woman of childbearing years, and then when the drug came - the box had pictures of children born with Thalidomide related birth defects.