BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Health
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Background Briefings 
Medical notes 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Monday, 4 September, 2000, 11:21 GMT 12:21 UK
'Thalidomide children' seek compensation
Thalidomide children
Thousands of children suffered from the effects of thalidomide
Children born to Thalidomide sufferers have developed similar physical deformities, according to campaigners.

The pressure group Thalidomide UK says 10 children have been born with the deformities that afflicted their parents.

Thalidomide was originally marketed in the 1950s and 1960s as a drug for morning sickness, but was withdrawn after fears about its safety.

It has been linked to serious limb deformities in thousands of babies whose mothers took the drug while in the early stages of pregnancy.

But now sufferers say the effects of the drug are being seen in their own children, almost 40 years later.

They are demanding compensation from the manufacturers of the drug to enable them to provide for these children.

Their parents live a life of guilt because they were led to believe this could never have happened again

Freddie Astbury, Thalidomide UK

It is estimated that 8,000 people world-wide are still living with disabilities caused by the drug.

There are thought to be 456 surviving Thalidomide victims currently living in the UK with disabilities ranging from minor to severe defects.

In the UK, an out-of-court settlement with the manufacturers of the drug, Distillers, led to the establishment of the Thalidomide Trust to provide for their needs.

Thalidomide UK says a second trust fund should now be set up to provide for the needs of similarly-affected children of Thalidomide sufferers.

Freddie Astbury, chairman of Thalidomide UK, said the families had been assured that the side-effects would not occur in their children.

"These families are the forgotten. No one could understand the hurt they live each day.

"Their parents live a life of guilt because they were led to believe this could never have happened again."

Ian Wright director of Diageo, the company that took over the original manufacturer, said the company was prepared to enter negotiations on the issue.

"We have not had a request or any contact on the issue from Mr Astbury.

"If he wants to pursue this further we have always said that we would respond quickly and effectively to any approach from the Thalidomide Trust," he said.

Thalidomide was discovered by accident in 1954 by chemists in Germany who were trying to produce an anti-histamine.

The drug they manufactured did not work as an anti-histamine, but it was found to be an effective tranquilliser with no harmful side effects.

Demand for the drug rose and it was used to treat many anxiety conditions, including morning sickness.

It took five years before an Australian obstetrician, William McBride, traced deformities in children to thalidomide.

His research was published in 1961, but the drug was not banned until 1962.

Some 12,000 children in 46 countries had been affected by then, with only 8,000 of them surviving past the first year of life.

German researchers experimenting on monkey foetuses confirmed his research, but they did not know why the drug caused these results.

This is still a mystery today.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

11 Aug 00 | Health
Thalidomide 'cuts cancer trauma'
28 Oct 98 | Health
Thalidomide returns to the UK
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Health stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Health stories