It took 50 years, tens of thousands of young victims and legal disputes in the world, but eventually also Grunenthal, the company that invented the thalidomide, it was decided to recognize their responsibility in what is the largest tragedy never happened because of a drug.
The apology came at the inauguration of a memorial dedicated to the victims in Stolberg, the German city headquarters of the company, but probably will not do the statue of the German Bonifatius Stirnberg, which cost 5 thousand euros to appease the anger of the victims.
“For 50 years we could not talk to the victims and their mothers – said Harald Stock, CEO of the company – instead we were silent, and we are very sorry for this. Thalidomide will always be part of the history of our company . We have a responsibility and face openly. ” The drug, designed for morning sickness and other discomforts typical of pregnancy, was approved in Germany in 1954, while the first adverse effects were directly linked to that thalidomide only five years later and the withdrawal took place only in 1961.
Only after a long time it was understood that the toxicity was due to the coexistence of two forms, a ‘good’ and ‘bad’, then indistinguishable, but now the form ‘good’ is used for the treatment of certain cancers. Some estimates suggest that more than 20 thousand children were born with birth defects in the limbs, while in Italy the patient groups in 6-700 estimate the number of victims, who are now 300.
The company so far has paid only the German victims, while disputes are underway in several other countries including Australia, “In Italy only a few years we have seen received compensation from the state – said Vincent Tomasso, president of the ‘ Association Thalidomidici Italian – although bureaucratic problems are putting obstacles for some of our members. instead From Grunenthal for 50 years, we have seen only a glass ceiling. ” There is at least one positive aspect of the story, says pharmacologist Silvio Garattini: “At the time I thought it was just such a possible effect of a chemical on reproduction – the expert explains – it was just after the story of thalidomide that it has become mandatory to test to see the effects in pregnancy. This and the introduction of pharmacovigilance have meant that in 50 years there have been more cases so severe. “