Page last updated at 15:33 GMT, Friday, 18 April 2008 16:33 UK

Thalidomide compensation demanded

Thalidomide campaigners
About 10,000 babies were born with deformities as a result of the drug

Dozens of people born with deformities due to the drug thalidomide have demanded compensation from the company that invented the drug 50 years ago.

Campaigners gathered at London's German embassy to ask for 3bn from firm Grunenthal and the German government.

Sadie Galvin, whose son Dominic was born brain damaged after she took the drug, said: "These people must be made to pay for their crime."

Grunenthal said it acknowledged no basis for the campaigners' demands.

Severe side-effects

Thalidomide was first licensed for use in the UK in 1958 as a cure for morning sickness.

But some 10,000 babies were born with deformities after their mothers took the drug while pregnant.

By 1961 it had been withdrawn from sale after evidence of severe side-effects.

Dominic Galvin, now 49, was born brain damaged and requires full-time care after his mother was prescribed the drug.

His mother Sadie said: "I took about nine Thalidomide tablets over three days - nine little bits of poison that ruined his life and ruined my life as well."

Sadie and Dominic Galvin
Sadie Galvin provides full-time care to her son Dominic

German firm Grunenthal paid just over 100m deutschmarks - the equivalent of about 100m today - into a compensation fund for those affected, most of whom came from Germany.

UK victims were compensated by the drug's UK distributor Distillers Biochemicals Limited, receiving around 18,000 each year.

But this is barely enough, they say, to cover the cost of caring for people who have suffered as a result of the drug.

Nick Dobrik, chairman of the Thalidomide Trust's national advisory council, said: "The big problem for Thalidomiders is that their parents are dying so the people they relied upon to look after them are not around any more."

Grunenthal is currently in talks to make a new, "voluntary" payment to survivors - mainly the German ones who were exposed to the drug supplied directly by the company.

However it says it has no responsibility for those whose mothers bought the pill from other firms who at the time held the licence.

"At no time did Grunenthal market or sell thalidomide in Great Britain," a spokesman said. "Grunenthal acknowledges no basis for such demands."

The campaign features on Inside Out at 1930 BST on BBC One in London.


SEE ALSO
'We deserve a thalidomide sorry'
03 Apr 08 |  Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West

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