The Thalidomide case is a landmark “big pharma” case that did not get the victims the money they ought to have been awarded. This is most likely the case because most cases occurred in Europe where the law does not give juries the capacity to set damages. According to a report prepared in 2019 by the Irish government, the current average yearly allowance for a UK Thalidomide survivor is approximately £20,000 sterling ($30,000). If the case had been brought against the manufacturer in the U.S., it is likely that the families would have been properly compensated.
In the 1960s, a new drug named Thalidomide was introduced to the United States. Originating overseas, the drug’s German manufacturer handed out samples to its own employees, claiming it was even safe for pregnant women to take. On Christmas day in 1956, the daughter of a Thalidomide employee was born without ears.
In the 1950s, German company Chemie Grunenthal developed Thalidomide and marketed it as the first safe sleeping pill to European consumers. The drug was also considered an effective treatment option for pregnant women with morning sickness. Thalidomide became so popular that in certain European countries, it was as common as aspirin. To help market Thalidomide, the manufacturer began giving out samples to promote the drug, beginning with its own employees.
The safety concerns of Thalidomide weren’t realized until much later, but the first known victim was a little girl born with no ears in 1956. Around that time, thousands of children around the world whose mothers consumed Thalidomide while pregnant were born with serious disabilities. Birth defects linked to the drug included flipper-like arms and legs. In some cases, parents rejected their Thalidomide-affected children because of the disability and had them institutionalized. Other parents had the flippers amputated to accommodate prosthetic arms and legs. In an extreme case, a young mother and her doctor faced criminal charges for the mercy killing of her affected infant.
In September 1960 a young pharmacologist with the Food and Drug Administration named Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey began reviewing the drug for approval. During this process, she was alarmed to find the lack of rigorous scientific research supporting the drug’s safety claims. She began to ask the company for more data. In November 1961, evidence linking Thalidomide to birth defects became public in Germany.
At The Hameroff Law Firm, P.C., standing up for victims of negligence is our job. If you or a loved one has been injured because of someone else’s carelessness, call (520) 792-4700 to schedule a free consultation. Our Tucson personal injury law firm is personally committed to providing high-quality legal service.