Thalidomide victims unmoved by apology
Sat, 01 Sep 2012 6:00p.m.
By David Farrier
The German maker of a notorious drug that caused thousands of babies around the world to be born with shortened arms and legs or no limbs at all has issued its first ever apology.
But that apology has come 50 years after Thalidomide was pulled off the market. The company said its long silence was due to its own shock over the scandal.
Barry De Geest is one of 15 known Thalidomide survivors in New Zealand. His mother was prescribed Thalidomide while she was pregnant, and he was born with severe birth defects.
The 51-year-old awoke in Auckland this morning to an apology from the drug company responsible for his condition.
“I yawned,” he says. “I just yawned.”
The chief executive of Gruenenthal apologised to the mothers and their children affected by the drug and asked for forgiveness. He went on to say: "We also apologise for the fact that we have not found the way to you from person to person for almost 50 years. Instead, we have been silent and we are very sorry for that.
"Regard our long silence as a sign of the silent shock that your fate has caused us."
In the late 1950s, the drug was sold in 46 countries, including New Zealand. In 1961, the drug was taken off the market, although it's used today to treat bone marrow cancer and leprosy.
“I've done okay for myself but I've had to live for 50 years with no arms and short legs,” says Mr De Geest. “That's a result of Thalidomide that Grendathole made and they knew what was going on. So the least they can do is to actually share some of that profit, because they make billions of dollars each year.”
Along with the apology came a statue in West Germany, paid for by Gruenenthal, which Mr De Geest says is a waste of money.
Some have managed to win compensation. Just more than a month ago, Thalidomide victim Lynette Rowe won a landmark claim in Australia, receiving a multimillion dollar payout from the drug's distributor.
“It’s the type of apology you give when you’re not really sorry,” says Wendy Rowe, Lynette Rowe’s mother. “It’s also insulting. He wants us to believe Gruenenthal had not apologise for 50 years because it’s been in silent shock. I suspect he might not know what shock is.”
The reaction from Thalidomide survivors in Germany has generally been negative, criticising the 50 year wait for the apology and a lack of monetary compensation to back it up.
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2/09/2012 2:07:54 p.m.
@ DR DAVID HILL I can understand your stance against these pharmaceutical companies. Its also 'mind boggling' how these companies exploit an individuals trust with impunity, not to mention how widely diverse they are throughtout the world. It's through exposure how these companies can be stopped but because of the accumulation of wealth and resources, will 'they' truly be stopped? Thalidomide victims all over the world, as well as other 'victims of pharmaceutical agents' would expect to be angry and negative. I wonder, if given the opportunity, would they exchange places with these pharmaceutical corporates? Would that be poetic justice?
2/09/2012 4:35:27 a.m.
Dr David Hill wrote:
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 these 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 HillWorld Innovation FoundationUnited Kingdom – Switzerland
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