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Fifty years later, Spain’s Thalidomide victims still await justice

Victims association spokesman says drug was still being sold after 1961

Some of Spain's Thalidomide victims in court on Monday.
Some of Spain's Thalidomide victims in court on Monday.

Thalidomide victims listened in a Madrid court Monday during closing arguments in their lawsuit against the German maker of the medicine. The 186 plaintiffs in the case, who are seeking 204 million euros in compensation from the Grünenthal firm, which patented the drug, will have to wait for about 45 days before a judges' panel hands down its decision.

Thalidomide was introduced in the 1950s as a sedative but was given to pregnant mothers for morning sickness. It was ordered to be taken off the shelves in 1961 after it was shown that it caused severe birth defects, such as missing or deformed limbs.

Rafael Basterrechea, vice president of the Association of Victims of Thalidomide in Spain (Avite), said there is evidence that it was still being sold after 1962. A Grünenthal lawyer told the court that the statute of limitations has run out, and that the pharmaceutical firm acted responsibly at the time.