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Teacher sues Bayer for birth defects

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Teacher sues Bayer for birth defects
Photo: DPA
09:41 CEST+02:00
A teacher is suing German pharma giant Bayer in an attempt to force the company to publish information about a pregnancy testing drug taken by his mother, which he claims led to birth defects in him and hundreds of others in the 1970s.

The case is being seen as a pilot, with many more to follow if it succeeds, news magazine Der Spiegel reported over the weekend. Initially he is trying to force the company to release information, after which the intention is to sue for compensation.

Around 1,000 women who took the hormone-based Duogynon during the 1970s bore children with serious birth defects, including hydrocephalus and spina bifida.

A number of specialists saw a link between Duogynon and the birth defects, saying this was another thalidomide scandal – where an anti-anxiety drug prescribed to pregnant women resulted in serious birth defects in their children.

An investigation against Duogynon producer Schering was shelved in 1980, and civil cases brought against the company failed. The Duogynon case was then largely forgotten by the wider public.

Now though, the affected children are adults and are demanding an explanation. The magazine also says their legal position improved a few years ago.

The 34-year-old teacher from Pfronten in Bavaria, whose birth defects meant that among other things, he had to have an artificial urethra fitted, is now suing Bayer, which bought Schering four years ago, to see the relevant documents.

Bayer has refused all claims, and says that not only is there no causal connection between Duogynon and the birth defects, but also argues that any claims would be invalidated by the statute of limitations.

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