Despite being acknowledged as the worst man made disaster in Europe since the Second World War – outside of war or genocide, those of us damaged by thalidomide have frequently been treated shabbily by governments, pharmaceutical companies, and the medical and legal professions. It is beyond doubt that the manufacturers of the drug knew that it had harmful side effects within a short time of putting it on the Market and that the drug’s testing regime was woefully inadequate. Had Chemie Grunenthal heeded early warning signs and subjected its “wonder drug” to rigorous testing, very few people would have been damaged or killed in the womb.
Thalidomiders in different parts of the world have markedly different lifestyles and expectations depending on the size of the settlements they received – or indeed if they received one at all.
ICTA’s aim is to ensure that everyone receive fair and equal treatment regardless of their country of birth or where their mother took the drug.
We are doing this by:
Reminding Chemie Grunenthal that it has a responsibility to support everyone damaged by its drug – not just people in countries where it was the licencee or manufacturer.
Ensuring that Chemie Gruntheral provides adequately for German and other thalidomide survivors.
Pressing national governments to meet the increasing support needs of thalidomiders whose health is deteriorating rapidly and whose support needs are consequently increasing year by year. They, the governments, allowed and often encouraged distribution of the drug, the fact that there are so few thalidomiders born in the USA is testament to the fact that America had a robust regulatory system for new medicines. Other governments failed their populations in this regard.
ICTA was formed at the beginning of 2008 and since then has rapidly made its presence felt. There have been hunger strikes, demonstrations, and other acts of civil disobedience. Unless governments and Chemie Grunenthal sit down to negotiate with us, this activity is likely to escalate.
We are already using our collective energy to great success:
The Italian Government has agreed compensation for its hitherto ignored thalidomide population.
The Spanish Government spent years denying that thalidomide had ever been sold in the country has now admitted to allowing the sale of the drug and discussions are in progress.
The German Government doubled the pensions of thalidomide survivors supported by the Stiftung in 2008 – but starting from a very low base, this was no where near adequate.
Chemie Grunethal announced a “voluntary” contribution of €50m in 2008. In reality, the company was beginning to feel the heat and hoped to buy off discontent by making this gesture.
At the end of 2008, Sebastian Wirtz stepped down as CEO of Chemie Gruntehal - the first time in the company’s history that a non-Wirtz family member was put in charge.
In the UK, Government ministers were told that British thalidomiders expected state support to meet their needs for health care and continuing independence. Health Secretary, Alan Johnson, said that he was “not persuaded” of the need to provide extra funds. A campaign is now underway to persuade Mr Johnson to change his mind. We already have the support of distinguished figures like Lord Ashley of Stoke, several members of the House of Commons and the national press.
The Irish Thalidomide Association (ITA) is in talks with the Department of Health about further funding for Irish thalidomiders.
Austrian thalidomiders are about to start negotiations with their government for a financial solution.
Swedish thalidomiders have already received a payout from their government and are now optimistic that talks with the Swedish licensee, AstraZeneca PLC, will soon bear fruit.
Since the beginning of the international campaign, many letters, describing the health deterioration associated with chronic pain and the precarious living conditions of Canadian Thalidomiders, were sent to the various official authorities involved in Germany and in Canada. An interview was also granted to the Canadian Press on November 9th, 2008. The public awareness of the extraordinary daily challenges and financial distress of Canadian survivors continues.
We are few in number but are confident that we have right on our side. We will accept nothing less than justice, dignity and a secure financial future.
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