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Irish Thalidomide victims reject first apology for drug

State slammed for extending sale of awful drug

IRISH victims of the birth defect pregnancy drug Thalidomide have dismissed the first apology for half-a- century from the German company which invented the drug as "meaningless", while also criticising the government's inaction.

During the Fifties and Sixties the drug was developed to combat morning sickness -- but it led to the birth of children without limbs.

The apology by pharmaceutical company Grunenthal was made in a speech by its CEO Harald Stock at the inauguration of a special memorial in Germany.

Mr Stock said that the company had failed to reach out "from person to person" to the victims and their mothers over the past 50 years. "Instead, we have been silent and we are very sorry for that," he added at an event in the western German city of Stolberg, where the firm is based.

"We see both the physical hardship and the emotional stress that the affected, their families and particularly their mothers, had to suffer because of Thalidomide and still have to endure day by day," he said.

"The Thalidomide tragedy took place 50 years ago in a world completely different from today. Throughout the world the tragedy influenced the development of new procedures and legal frameworks, which seek to minimise the risks of new medicines for patients as much as possible."

However, he added that: "Grunenthal has acted in accordance with the state of scientific knowledge and all industry standards for testing new drugs that were relevant and acknowledged in the 1950s and 1960s," he said.

In their response, the Irish Thalidomide Association said the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, found that for victims to get resolution they needed an apology and an acknowledgment that wrong was done.

"Grunenthal have issued an apology while saying they did no wrong -- this is meaningless. The Irish Government have compounded this by refusing both an apology and an acknowledgment of wrongdoing when they failed to have proper regulation of drugs -- and failed to remove the drug from the shelves for almost a year after all other countries had removed it," the association said.

A British Thalidomide advocacy group also rebuffed the apology as "insufficient".

In January 2010, the British government expressed "sincere regret" for the decision to give the drug the stamp of approval and set up a funding scheme to help survivors cope.

Sunday Independent