Government’s £80m for victims of thalidomide – but still no apology

Britain’s lax regulations contributed to scandal of babies born disfigured because of drug

Survivors in England of the world’s worst drug disaster, which led to the birth of 10,000 grossly disfigured children worldwide, are to receive £80m in compensation from the Government to help with their increasing needs.

The cash, to be paid over 10 years, will be divided between 325 of the victims of thalidomide, a drug given to pregnant women in the 1950s and 1960s. Thalidomide survivors in Scotland will share £14m; those in Wales and Northern Ireland await similar announcements.

Thalidomide was prescribed between 1958 and 1961 as a drug for morning sickness, after a government agency called the Cohen Committee had approved it. But it had a devastating effect on the foetus, and children were born with missing or deformed arms and legs.

The World Health Organisation had warned that the UK’s inadequate drug regulation was courting disaster. In the US, which had tighter controls, thalidomide was not used. The Government has never apologised for its role in the disaster but three years ago it made an initial £20m payment to the victims and, for the first time, expressed its “sincere regret and deep sympathy” for the suffering caused.

Yesterday’s announcement provides security for the remaining “thalidomiders” by guaranteeing long-term financial support for their growing health needs and amounts to an acknowledgement that the Government shares the blame for the catastrophe.

Norman Lamb, Care Services minister, said his focus was on offering “practical help”. An evaluation of the £20m pilot scheme had shown that thalidomide victims needed bespoke adaptations to their homes and cars which were more expensive because of the rarity of their injuries.

“I think society has a responsibility to these people. One of the big problems is that many thalidomiders have made the most remarkable use of their bodies to compensate for having missing or shortened limbs. But that has an impact in terms of wear and tear on their bodies and a deterioration of their condition.”

The compensation from the Government comes on top of payments from Diageo, successor to Distillers, the company that distributed thalidomide in the UK and elsewhere in Europe. Diageo has paid £160m over the last six years to fund the future needs of the thalidomiders.

Grünenthal, the German manufacturer of the drug, set up a €50m (£41m) fund for 3,000 thalidomide victims on the Continent, mostly in Germany, and unveiled a memorial last September when, for the first time, it expressed its “sincere regrets” and “deep sympathy” for those affected. But it has never compensated the British victims.

The catastrophe led to a fundamental reform of the way the international pharmaceutical industry is regulated and ushered in today’s system of testing and licensing. When thalidomide became available in Britain in 1958 it had not been rigorously tested and it took three years for its effects to become clear. Today, there are 470 British survivors, now in their 50s, who receive payments ranging from £5,000 to £50,000 a year depending on the severity of their disfigurement. In addition, they can qualify for annual health grants up to £35,000.

Martin Johnson, director of the Thalidomide Trust, which administers payments to the survivors, said those affected were expected to have a normal lifespan but were ageing faster than their contemporaries, and already had the fitness levels of 80-year-olds. “We are repeatedly exposed at the Trust to examples of day-to-day heroism,” he said. “They have been conditioned to behave that way since childhood… This [money] will help slow down their deterioration.”

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

    £20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

    Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

    £20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

    Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

    £20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

    Recruitment Genius: B2B Media Sales Professional - Work From Home

    £20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Enjoying rapid growth we contin...

    Day In a Page

    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
    Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

    No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

    Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
    Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

    Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

    The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
    Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

    Something wicked?

    Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
    10 best sun creams for body

    10 best sun creams for body

    Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

    Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
    Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

    There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

    The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

    Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
    Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

    One day to find €1.6bn

    Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
    New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

    'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

    Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
    Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

    Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

    The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
    Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

    Historians map out untold LGBT histories

    Public are being asked to help improve the map