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Thalidomide maker says sorry 50 years later

The Local · 1 Sep 2012, 14:40

Published: 01 Sep 2012 12:03 GMT+02:00
Updated: 01 Sep 2012 14:40 GMT+02:00

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Some of those affected rejected the apology on Saturday, saying it was an "insulting" response to the thousands born disabled as a result of its use.

Grünenthal said on Friday it was "very sorry" for its silence towards victims of the drug, which was sold to pregnant women in the 1950s and early 1960s to cure morning sickness.

But victims said the apology was too little, too late.

"We feel that a sincere and genuine apology is one which actually admits wrongdoing. The company has not done that and has really insulted the Thalidomiders," British victim Nick Dobrik told BBC radio.

Globally, some 10,000 children were born with defects – characteristically dramatically shortened limbs – after their mothers took thalidomide, which was sold under the name Contergan in Germany.

The drug, intended as a "wonder cure" for morning sickness, was sold in nearly 50 countries before it was taken off the market in 1961.

Grünenthal's chief executive Harald Stock said his firm was "very sorry" for the company’s silence on the issue so far.

"We ask that you regard our long silence as a sign of the shock that your fate has caused us," he said in the speech. "We also apologize for the fact that we have not found the way to you from human being to human being," Stock said.

"Instead, we have been silent and we are very sorry for that."

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

However, the apology was dismissed by the charity Thalidomide Agency UK, which represents people affected by the drug in Britain.

"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," said Freddie Astbury, the charity's head consultant.

In a statement, lawyers for Australian survivor Lynette Rowe said: "The apology issued by Grünenthal to thalidomide survivors is pathetic - it is too little, too late and riddled with further deceit."

Story continues below…

Rowe's lawyers called for the firm to release its private records to the public. She is leading a legal case against Grünenthal, saying the firm misled and failed to inform distributors about the extent of problems is knew about, and that it deliberately withheld information from the US Food and Drug Authority.

There are between 5,000 and 6,000 sufferers still alive. As they and their parents or other carers age, many argue that financial settlements and support agreements with health care systems are becoming out of date.

AFP/DPA/The Local/rc

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

14:18 September 1, 2012 by Berlin fuer alles
"We ask that you regard our long silence as a sign of the shock that your fate caused in us."

No, I regard their silence as a sign of knowing their guilt and not wanting to say anything that might prejudice their defence.
14:34 September 1, 2012 by petenick
Jesus, what the hell were they waiting for? A miracle?
14:42 September 1, 2012 by DOZ
It seems that was my fault as well.
14:57 September 1, 2012 by smart2012
German quality
15:00 September 1, 2012 by lucksi
Ah, the fabled "We are so sorry" after everyone responsible is either dead or cannot be prosecuted anymore.
15:11 September 1, 2012 by kaydays
To me, this is not a genuine apology!
16:02 September 1, 2012 by The-ex-pat
This in not an apology, it is the company lawyers talking. Listen up guys, most of the victims are dead now, you can start the process of acknowledgement without it costing you too much........!
17:28 September 1, 2012 by Bettysenior
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 (largest equivalent fine in pharmaceutical corporate history). These drugs were also sold over many years under false pretences to teenagers with depression problems and people with life threatening health problems (diabetics). GSK were not bothered at all about the ill-health that these drugs did to those who were prescribed them drugs also. Indeed the irony of this limitations damages payment was that according to some calculations GSK sold $28 billion of these harmful drugs around the world but where with an industry average mark-up of 50% made $14 billion profit. Therefore take $3 billion from $14 billion and GSK have pocketed $11 billion from this crime against humanity. They say that crime does not really pay but clearly it does when you are a global behemoth and have such financial and economic power.

Therefore in modern times the leopard has not really changed its spots one bit since Thalidomide was prescribed half a century ago. Indeed this is clear case again where the drug company concerned should also pay dearly to all those people that it has affected across the globe.

But 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 http://foolscrow.wordpress.com/2010/07/27/return-to-nuremberg-big-pharma-must-answer-for-crimes-against-humanity/

Dr David Hill

World Innovation Foundation

United Kingdom ­ Switzerland
17:53 September 1, 2012 by realist1961
I imagine lawyers have obtained more compensation than the victims... which is sad. People who actually need the money have to share it with a bunch of ambulance chasers.
20:43 September 1, 2012 by Berlin fuer alles
Cynical to say the least coming out with this now. I can see we are all more or less in agreement about this which is not often the case on these forums. They should be ashamed of themselves. This is a calculated press release which is designed to minimise the effect on their profit margins. W##k**s.
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