Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Thalidomide victims reject apology

The German firm that made the drug thalidomide has apologised to people born with congential birth defects as a result of its use

A British charity has rebuffed the first apology for half a century from the German company which invented birth defect pregnancy drug Thalidomide.

The Grunenthal Group said in a statement it "regrets" the consequences of the drug, which was used to combat morning sickness but led to the birth of children without limbs during the 1950s and 1960s.

But the apology was rejected as insufficient by the Thalidomide Agency UK, which represents people who were 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.

Mr Astbury, who was born in Chester in 1959 with no arms and no 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."

Grunenthal chief executive Harald Stock said that the company had failed to reach out "from person to person" to the victims and their mothers over the past 50 years.

"Instead, we have been silent and we are very sorry for that," he added at an event in the western German city of Stolberg, where the company is based.

Thalidomide was pulled from the market in 1961 after it was linked to birth defects. Many victims have only recently received compensation. Mr Astbury said the company had always denied it had anything to do with the birth defects and believes they are now apologising because of court proceedings brought by victims in Australia.

He said: "Being disabled is very expensive and Thalidomide people need help and care, and adaptations to their cars and homes. We just want people to live a comfortable life and that means Grunenthal have to pay for their mistake financially."

Thalidomide survivor Nick Dobrik dismissed the apology from the company. "An apology should be an unreserved apology and not a conditional apology. It is strange when a company gives an apology which is not the truth, but is a lie," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

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