The German manufacturer of the drug thalidomide, which has been blamed for about 10,000 birth defects, has issued its first apology to victims in 50 years, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports.
Harald Stock, chief executive of the Grünenthal Group, made the apology during a speech at the unveiling of a thalidomide memorial, a bronze statue of a limbless child.
Addressing the victims and their families, he said “…we have been silent, and we are very sorry for that.”
Some victims of thalidomide are dismissing the apology as too little, too late. Freddie Astbury is chief consultant at Thalidomide U.K. Agency. His organization represents people in Britain, where nearly 500 victims survive. As a result of his mother’s thalidomide use, Astbury was born with no arms and no legs.
The report quotes Astbury as saying: “We are glad the apology has been made. But when you are disabled, it costs a lot of money. We are in our 50s, we need care. We need adaptations in our houses and cars, for starters. So if they’re serious, let’s get around the table and talk financial help.”
Grünenthal Group is far from the last company to be accused of marketing a drug linked with birth defects.
A number of studies have linked antidepressants classified as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, with potentially deadly heart and lung defects. SSRI antidepressants, which are among the most popular medications worldwide, include Prozac and Zoloft.
Grünenthal Group marketed thalidomide in the 1950s and early 1960s to treat morning sickness. It was withdrawn in 1961 after it was linked to birth defects, including shortened arms and legs, and in some cases no limbs at all, the Post Gazette reports.
Patients should consult their doctors before making any changes in their medication. A consultation with an SSRI lawyer is also important if there are significant injuries from SSRIs.
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