Gordon & Reeves is committed to seeking justice and compensation for people born with physical disabilities from exposure to the drug thalidomide. Thalidomide was taken by many pregnant women all across the world in the late 1950s and early 1960s to alleviate the symptoms of morning sickness. Despite very little research being performed into thalidomide’s side-effects, thalidomide was marketed as one of the safest drugs available for consumption. A tragic consequence of this marketing campaign was that women consumed the drug without any knowledge of the harm being inflicted on their unborn child.
Today, survivors of thalidomide are middle-aged and have particularly important and unique needs, which remain unresolved. A common, well-known effect of exposure to thalidomide in the womb is deformity of the arms and/or legs. However, thalidomide can also damage other parts of the body, including the eyes, ears, spine, heart and hips.
We believe that many people with thalidomide injuries have never been properly informed or diagnosed. We believe that many thalidomiders never received proper redress for their injuries.
Gordon & Reeves is determined to seek justice and compensation for the victims of thalidomide across the world. If you have any type of physical disability which you believe may have been the result of thalidomide, Click if you think you are a victim of thalidomide and would like to speak to a lawyer.
Thalidomide (alpha-phthalimido-glutarimide) was developed by the German firm Chemie Grunenthal as an anticonvulsant drug. Early trials showed it to be unsuitable for this purpose but indicated that it had sedative properties. Furthermore, it had one remarkable property: overdoses simply caused prolonged sleep, not death. The drug was first marketed in Germany in 1957 under the names Contergan or Grippex, and in the UK in April 1958 as Distaval. Later, compound preparations which combined thalidomide with other drugs were marketed for a wide variety of indications: Asmaval for asthma, Tensival for hypertension, Valgraine for migraine, and so forth. The promotion of these products laid great stress on the safety of thalidomide, based on the remarkable property described above.
After its release in Europe, reports began to emerge of adults suffering irreversible peripheral neuritis as a side effect of thalidomide. Later, German pediatricians and geneticists began to see children with gross limb malformations of a most unusual pattern. When two cases were shown at a pediatric meeting in Kassel by Kosenowand Pfeiffer in October 1960, few people present had ever seen similar limb defects. Wiedemann in 1961 described 13 affected infants who had been referred to him over a period of 10 months, and noted that this amounted to an epidemic. He drew attention to a number of associated malformations in these children, including congenital heart disease, microphthalmos and coloborna, intestinal atresis, renal malformations, abnormal pinnae, and facial naevus.
In November 1961, Lenz suggested that these deformities resulted from the mothers having taken thalidomide. By a remarkable coincidence, the same suggestion was made at much the same time by McBride in Australia. Confirmation of this suggestion came rapidly from all parts of the British Isles, Kenya, Japan, Sweden, Belgium, Switzerland, Lebanon, Israel, Peru, Canada, Brazil, the Netherlands, and the USA. Thousands of infants are believed to have been injured as a result of their mother’s ingestion of thalidomide.
Although the drug had been released only for "clinical trials" in the USA, about 2.5 million pills are believed to have been distributed here under the trade name "Kevadon," with hundreds of women of child-bearing age among the patients receiving the drug.
The pattern of thalidomide defects
Thalidomide is associated in the public mind with limb defects, and these certainly account for the majority of cases. However, almost any organ of the body would be affected. The second major group of defects involves the ears, the eyes, and the nerve supplies to the face, the eye muscles, and the lacrimal (tear) glands. Internal defects commonly affected the heart, the kidneys and urinary tract, the alimentary tract, and the genital tract. The early mortality rate among ‘thalidomide babies’ was about 40%, largely as a result of serious internal malformations.
Many of the serious internal defects caused problems at or soon after birth, and often required treatment or led to death. Some defects of the kidneys and female genital tract which can only be shown by special tests did not become apparent until many years after birth. It is possible that there are still undetected internal problems in people aged 30 years or more.
A small but important group of thalidomide related problems includes conditions which are not present at birth but develop later. These include abnormalities of the spine and of the knees. Other bones/joints may also be affected.