Fifty years ago, it was finally discovered that thalidomide, a drug prescribed to women for decades to help alleviate morning sickness from pregnancy, was the direct cause of a series of congenital birth defects, including missing or underdeveloped arms and legs. And this weekend, Gruenenthal, the German manufacturer of the drug, finally apologized. So that makes everything better.
Though Gruenenthal voiced its regret to victims after stopping sales and settling a lawsuit in 1972, they refused to admit liability, explaining that they had conducted all necessary clinical trial requested at the time.
On top of the daily struggles these victims faced over the years, the knowledge that Gruenenthal never actually apologized must have added to their distress.
As reported by Fox News, the chief executive of Gruenenthal Group, Harald Stock, apologized in Stolberg, Germany, where the company is based, on Friday at the unveiling of a very poignant bronze statue depicting a child born without limbs because of thalidomide.
Apologizing to mothers who took the drug and the children affected, Stock said, “We ask for forgiveness that for fifty years we didn’t find a way of reaching out to you from human being to human being.” He went on to say, “We ask that you regard our long silence as a sign of the shock that your fate caused in us.”
Although Stock’s apology may very well be sincere, his explanation for why the company neglected to issue an apology fifty years ago could appear vague or even convoluted to some.
Others might see the apology as a necessary public relations move, in light of continuing controversy. Llonka Stebritz, a spokeswoman for the Association of Contergan Victims, says the 1972 settlement in Germany wasn’t enough and that victims in many other countries are still waiting for compensation from Gruenenthal or its local distributors.
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