British government announces Thalidomide deal

Thursday 20 December 2012 23.29
Gruenenthal, the German manufacturers of the Thalidomide  apologised for the first time in September
Gruenenthal, the German manufacturers of the Thalidomide apologised for the first time in September

The British government has announced a major new €98m funding agreement for victims of the drug Thalidomide in England, to run over ten years.

It comes on top of a €29m pilot deal three years ago for over 470 victims there, which ends next March.

The announcement was made by Norman Lamb, the Minister of State for Care and Support at the Department of Health, who said the money is to be provided to the Thalidomide Trust to be used for health related care such as physiotherapy and surgery.

The agreement has renewed calls on the Government here to honour a commitment in the Programme for Government with victims of Thalidomide.

Finola Cassidy of the Irish Thalidomide Association said the British agreement is “in stark contrast” to the way the Government has treated Irish survivors which she described as “unforgivable”.

She said the British authorities' approach was extraordinary, inclusive and survivors had been listened to.

Thalidomide was prescribed to mothers in the 1950s and 1960s as a treatment for morning sickness but caused babies to be born with physical deformities and was later withdrawn.

There are 32 survivors of Thalidomide and the ITA says it represents 25 of them.

The Programme for Government committed the Government to re-opening discussions with the Association regarding further compensation for victims of the drug.

In July, the Association said that all talks between it and the Government on compensation had ceased and its members have commenced legal actions with the Injuries Board.

Health Minister, Dr James Reilly said the Government was prepared to consider a gesture of goodwill.

He said that legal advice to the State is that it does not have a legal liability for the injuries suffered by survivors of the drug.

Those affected say that the compensation provided in 1975 was inadequate and there are issues regarding the protection of Thalidomide children's rights as the offer was never approved or ruled on by the High Court.

They claim the authorities here failed to remove the drug from the shelves for almost a year after all other countries had removed it.

Gruenenthal, the German manufacturers of the drug apologised for the first time in September.

The ITA rejected that apology saying the firm had not acknowledged any wrongdoing.

Keywords: thalidomide