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MEDICINE

Thalidomide pharmaceutical firm ordered to pay compensation to victims

Drug was not properly tested by German company, judge rules, causing serious disabilities in Spanish babies

A Madrid court has ordered German pharmaceutical company Grünenthal to pay compensation to a collective of Spanish plaintiffs who suffered deformation due to its “negligent behavior” in approving Thalidomide, which was available in Spain until 1961.

The court ruling limits compensation payments to those people recognized by the government in a 2010 royal decree as victims of the drug and compensated by the Spanish state, but it did leave the door open for others to make claims if they can prove they have disabilities caused by Thalidomide. However, it excludes people who received money from the Contergan Foundation, established in Germany in 1971 to compensate Thalidomide victims and into which Grünenthal paid 117 million deutschmarks.

There are just over 20 surviving people who received compensation from the Spanish state. The Association of Victims of Thalidomide in Spain (Avite) had sought compensation for 186 people totaling 204 million euros.

Thalidomide was marketed in the 1950s as a tranquilizer but was used off-prescription to alleviate the symptoms of morning sickness but was withdrawn after a series of births with missing or deformed limbs. The company was ordered to pay the victims 20,000 euros for every percentage point of disability, and to meet the costs of the litigation after the Madrid court ruled it had failed to carry out sufficient laboratory trials of Thalidomide before marketing it in Germany.

Grünenthal, which does not concur with the court’s findings, has 20 days to appeal.

 

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