Contergan: Victims suffer consequential damage

Contergan: Victims suffer consequential damage

Contergan: Even more than ever after 50 years of withdrawing from the market

On November 27, 1961, the sleep aid Contergan was withdrawn from the market by the manufacturer Grünenthal. The German pediatrician Widukind Lenz had previously informed the company of his suspicion that there was a connection between malformations in newborns and the use of thalidomide. The over-the-counter sleep aid was often sold to pregnant women because it seemed to be well tolerated. This had massive consequences. Around 10,000 babies with thalidomide damage were born worldwide. Grünenthal admitted that the active ingredient thalidomide leads to nerve damage.

Contergan damage for life
Of the approximately 5000 thalidomide victims born in Germany, around 2700 are still alive today. For them, the question is how to proceed. The Federal Association of Organically Damaged People has published information on the website of the Association of Organically Damaged People for a long time that has resulted in the disabilities caused by the medication, such as incorrect posture of the spine, joints and muscles. This consequential damage would mean further intensive care and therapy measures, the cost coverage of which has not been satisfactorily clarified for those affected. In addition, parents who support and care for thalidomide victims in everyday life have become too old to continue to do so.

In April 1970, Grünenthal undertook to pay 100 million marks to those affected. The process was stopped. In 2009 Grünenthal paid another 50 million euros to the "Contergan Foundation for Disabled People", an association founded by the Federal Government. However, the enormous costs of treatment and care, loss of pensions and the special needs in old age require further measures. In addition to financial security, many of those affected are also concerned with social acceptance and recognition.

49-year-old Carla Hermsdörfer is one of the thalidomide victims. Her arms are too short and most of her eight fingers are stiff. She reports from everyday life to Stern magazine: “My apartment has been renovated and refurbished: higher work surfaces, low bathtub, special fittings that can be operated with one finger without effort, a shower toilet that is available on prescription. But you have to ask the health insurance company: Why do you need a shower toilet? If a person like me is there with the recipe, everyone should know that someone with short arms never reaches his butt in life. The question simply cannot be asked. "

Affected catalog of claims The Federal Association of thalidomide victims has drawn up a catalog of claims that is aimed equally at Grünenthal and the Federal Government. In summary, it includes the unrestricted assumption of all expenses due to the disability, financial security in old age, due to the increasing consequential damage, the complete coverage of support, care and assistance adapted to the needs, disabled-friendly living, ensuring mobility for a self-determined life, integration into working life and more social acceptance.

When asked by the magazine whether she felt forgotten today, 50 years after the thalidomide scandal, Carla Hermsdörfer replied: “We have been in the Valley of the Forgotten for decades. The financial compensation, the thalidomide pension, was only doubled in 2009. The Grünenthal company still exists today, like we do. After more than 50 years, it is time for the Wirtz family to face up to their responsibilities and actions. I find your arrogant and ignorant attitude extremely disgusting. We face our life and our problems too. "

The active ingredient thalidomide has been approved in Germany again since 2007. The active ingredient thalidomide has been approved in Germany under strict conditions since June 2007. Among other things, a so-called T-prescription is required for the indication "multiple myeloma". It is a cancer of the bone marrow. The drug is manufactured by a US company, with which Grünenthal claims that it has no business connections.

In Latin America, thalidomide is used against leprosy. Regrettably, the strict requirements are not always met here, so that the drug also reaches women of childbearing age and pregnant women. Malformations in children are the result. (ag)

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Photo credit: Ernst Rose /

Author and source information

Video: Thalidomide Survivors Compensation (October 2020).