Posting in Energy
BERLIN -- A half-century after the drug thalidomide burdened the lives of thousands of families, those responsible are still cleaning up the mess.
BERLIN -- It was late 1957 when Contergan, the first sleeping pill with virtually no risk of fatal overdosing, went on the German market.
"As harmless as sugar cookies," an original advertisement said. "Contergan gives peace and sleep. This harmless medicine won't burden the liver metabolism, affects neither blood pressure nor circulation, and is well tolerated even by sensitive patients."
Within a year, the new "wonder drug" under various names had made its way into prescription and over-the-counter markets in the UK, Australia, Canada, Japan and dozens of other countries, where it was frequently used to treat morning sickness.
But by late 1961, an increase in severe limb malformation in infants finally led German pediatrician Dr. Widukind Linz and Australian gynecologist Dr. William McBride to link the cases to thalidomide, the active ingredient in Contergan. Twelve days later, the drug's German manufacturer Grunenthal removed it from the market.
The damage had been done, however, with some 10,000 cases of infant deformities due to thalidomide recorded worldwide. Of the 5,000 instances that occurred in West Germany – which was hit hardest by the over-the-counter availability of the drug – roughly 2,800 survivors remain today.
The victims’ lifelong struggle for formal recognition and monetary compensation from Grunenthal is thought to be part of the catalyst for the pharmaceutical company's first-ever public apology to the victims of the thalidomide scandal on August 31 – some 50 years after the drug was discontinued.
“We also apologize for the fact that we have not found the way to you from person to person for almost 50 years,” Grunenthal CEO Dr. Harald F. Stock said during the inauguration of a thalidomide memorial commissioned by the company.
“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 silent shock that your fate has caused us.”
But questions turn to the responsibilities of business in the manufacture of consumer products, as thalidomide victims worldwide continue to age – and original compensation set out for those affected proves to have been an underestimate of the overall cost.
Following several years of case research and a trial, in which Grunenthal was never found guilty of negligence (there were no drug testing laws in place in West Germany between 1957 and 1961), the pharma company settled with families and paid 110 million Deutsche Mark (55 million USD) to a foundation for victims, while the German government contributed 100 million DM (50 million USD), according to the country’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung.
But Grunenthal’s portion of the fund was used up by 1997, at which point the government covered the cost of inflation, as well as the doubling of victims’ annual pension allowance in light of increasing living costs as ailments became worse with age.
"The original agreement was established at a time when everyone thought we hardly had a life expectancy,” Udo Herterich of the Contergan Association of North Rhine Westphalia told the paper.
"Our bodies are giving out,” Margit Hudelmaier, head of the National Association of Contergan Victims, told the paper, explaining that many survivors had to quit working early, were in need of massages, wheelchairs and above all – helping hands just to get through their daily lives.
“To help us live as comfortably and independently as possible costs money,” journalist, advocate and thalidomide victim Geoff Adams-Spink explains on CNN.com.
“Adaptations, medical costs and personal assistants are not cheap. Thalidomide has deprived us of the lives we should have had and many more of any life at all. I believe that both morally and legally, Grunenthal has a responsibility to help us and will continue to fight until that happens.”
Following talks with families in recent years, Grunenthal voluntarily paid another 50 million Euros to Germany’s Contergan Foundation in 2009. It also supports what it calls a hardship fund, which takes specific requests for compensation from severely disabled victims, Grunenthal spokesperson Frank Schönrock told SmartPlanet. But many survivors say the fight for compensation will not end until Grunenthal can guarantee survivors the full financial security they are unable to provide themselves with for the rest of their lives.
“The Wirtz family has grown fat on the backs of thousands of families whose lives have been torn apart by a medicine originally marketed as ‘totally without harm,’” says Adams-Spink. “If they really want to make amends, they should put their entire wealth at the disposal of the world's thalidomide survivors before it's too late.”
According to Grunenthal, it made thalidomide available for humanitarian reasons only after the tragedy and completely discontinued it in 2003. The company also says that thalidomide was not commercially marketed after 1961, and that it derived no profit from the drug.
PHOTO: Flickr/Robert S. Donovan
Sep 5, 2012
Those responsible are not "still cleaning up the mess." - they never did or wanted to do so. You don't do any research at all. The so-called apology was offered by a newly hired CEO type. Grunenthal is famous for loading up it's staff with former Nazi officers hot out of Nuremberg or prison.after the end of the War; ergo a less than humane attitude towards the victims let alone admission of anything or offering real money. It's always the Jews who get characterized as being money grubbers - I think the Germans are unbeatable and always have been. So please be a more serious journalist.
Office of the Director of National Intelligence of all. TRUST IN OUR LORD GOD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST. The best counsel on all of Earth is the Bible. Tell all to read it daily. The next time you vote do not vote for a promise vote a man that will tell the world his LORD and Savior is JESUS CHRIST, and that he will serve him, family then Country. And will tell all this on a Bible the truth of what was and is to come from are Lord GOD. Read the Bible and tell the lost to do so to. The Bible the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth. So help you GOD He will send his Son to Judge all. May our Lord Jesus Christ and GOD the Father that is in Heaven, Guide and Watch over us. In this time of TRIBULATION, Strengthen your Faith, and encourage all to Pray for their souls. The strong in the word of our Lord will Now Help the World and be the disciples of our Lord's Word. It is time to gather the lost sheep while you can and there still is so little time. The Governments of all Nations need to read. John 14:6-7 Jesus said .......... United We Will Always Stand That In GOD We Trust True Patriots The Lord's Little Helper Paul Felix Schott PS All Government workers should have a pre-employment drug test and it need to start with Marion Barry. Any one arrested from having or using drugs like Marion Barry should never be allowed in any United States of America government office ever. Or never allowed to work for our government ever. All Americans Should Stand Untied in GOD We Trust not the Wicked. Do we want to go to Hell or Heaven support the good not the wicked. Why is it not law in every state in the United States of America that if used or sold drugs you can never work for our Country in any form of Government as a worker. You cannot work for the Wicked and still say you are helping people and doing good. Drugs in our leaders is sick no wounder they would not want a law to protect the good. I guess a lot more of the wicked have gotten into our Government. Too many die each year from one of them behind the wheel of a car of truck. Then as wicked leaders they try to have their friends cover it up. Till someone good at heart puts it in the spotlight for all to see. Pray they do not kill one of your love ones. GOD Bless all the Law Enforcement and everyone that helps Stand for the good and may they always stay Good at Heart. United We Stand In GOD We Trust Not The wicked May We Stay one Nation That Stands for GOD and Family then Country. For without GOD and Family we will have no Country.
"The company also says that thalidomide was not commercially marketed after 1961, and that it derived no profit from the drug." This is an attitude that prevails amongst the wealthy. "You think you've got problems. We didn't even make a profit." I'm a Gilbert and Sullivan fan: My object all sublime I shall achieve in time â To let the punishment fit the crime â The punishment fit the crime;