Irish Thalidomide Association

changing, challenging and facing the future

Irish Government waited six months to issue warning

Olivia O'Leary on Drivetime

Olivia O'Leary on Drivetime

Government waited six months to issue Thalidomide warning. Journalist Olivia O'Leary says this raises some serious questions, says and  that as survivors we deserve answers.

She goes on to say in her radio opinion piece that Thalidomide brought in  testing that goes in to make sure drugs are safe today.  "I think it's our duty to thank them for what they did - because they did make the world safer for all of us."

Olivia O'Leary on Drivetime


The reality of life for Thalidomide survivors

Prime time, RTE Television 16 December, 2013

U.S. Judge Rejects attempt to dismiss Thalidomide Cases

In a decision impacting more than 50 lawsuits brought by thalidomide victims in the United States, U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond yesterday rejected several pharmaceutical companies’ argument that the statute of limitations has passed.

Attorneys at Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP represent dozens of alleged thalidomide victims in the United States, who claim their mothers were given the birth defect-causing drug while pregnant in the late 1950s and early 1960s, causing serious injuries including missing limbs and deformed organs. They claim that until very recently, they had no idea that their injuries could have been caused by thalidomide. However, new scientific and historical evidence suggest that thalidomide could have caused their injuries, according to the lawsuits.

The suits, consolidated in U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania, allege that Grunenthal GMBH, the German drug company who invented thalidomide, in cooperation with American companies Smith, Kline and French, now GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK), and Merrell Richardson, now Sanofi-Aventis (NYSE: SNY), hid evidence of thalidomide distribution in the United States in the late 1950s, lying to Congress and creating a false historical narrative that the drug was blocked by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Judge Diamond’s decision clears the way for the more than 50 cases filed to move forward toward discovery, and ultimately trial.

Defendants argued that the statute of limitations prevented any claims, given that the alleged injuries occurred more than 50 years ago. However, the judge rejected the defense arguing that there is not sufficient evidence at this stage to dismiss the thalidomide victims’ claims.

“We think the statute of limitations was the defendants’ only chance of avoiding a full discovery process,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman and attorney for dozens of thalidomide victims. “Now, we can begin to dig into the companies’ records and find out exactly what happened, and we are very confident those documents will confirm the allegations in our lawsuits.”

In a decision impacting more than 50 lawsuits brought by thalidomide victims in the United States, U.S. District Judge Paul Diamond yesterday rejected several pharmaceutical companies’ argument that the statute of limitations has passed.


Thalidomiders protested outside London's German Consulate

Thalidomide survivors protested outside the German Consulate against the German government's 42-year long protection of Grünenthal GMbH - manufacturer of Thalidomide - from prosecution by any victims of the infamous drug which deformed 10,000 babies.

Some 200 Spanis h thalidomiders took the drug's German producer to court Monday to seek 204 million euros ($277 million) in compensation.

Some victims have won compensation cases against drug producer Gruenenthal Group's distributors in other countries, but the German company has long refused to agree to settlements. It officially apologized to victims in 2012.

Ignacio Martinez, lawyer for The Spanish Association of Thalidomide Victims, which represents some 200 alleged victims born between 1960 and 1965, told the court in Madrid that the drug's prospectus gave no warning of side effects.

When thalidomide was pulled off the market, no campaign was carried out to explain to doctors and patients its potential effects on fetuses, he said. Martinez also argued that the German company kept distributing the notorious drug in Spain six months after it was taken off the market in other countries.

Gruenenthal's lawyers rejected the compensation demand, saying the case had exceeded the statute of limitations. The German firm's representative in Spain, Guillermo Castillo, also insisted that thalidomide was withdrawn from the country in December 1961, as it was elsewhere in Europe.

The court further heard that Gruenenthal offered a total 120,000 euros in compensation to Spanish victims some years ago — an offer that was rejected.

More than 30 Spaniards bearing the effects of the drug attended the one-day trial.

"Us being alive is the best evidence, because many (victims) have already died," said Matilde Roman, 52, whose right arm was severely deformed at birth. "My mother took thalidomide, but she was illiterate and nobody explained to her the damage of this medication."

The amount being demanded as compensation is based on multiplying 20,000 euros by the level of disability per plaintiff, which is measured in percentage points. A ruling in the case is expected within a month.

Read more here:

Thalidomide survivors accuse Government of 'bully boy' tactics over compensation

The group representing thalidomide survivors has accused the Government of "bully boy" tactics in its negotiations over compensation.

The Irish Thalidomide Association said an offer made yesterday by the State of €62,500 for each of the 32 Irish survivors was not acceptable.

However, the Department of Health said six of the victims have accepted the State's offer.

Finola Cassidy said the group had hoped an interim payment would be offered, but the State instead presented it as a full and final offer.

A High Court judge rejected the compensation offer made to two thalidomide victims in a late sitting yesterday evening.

Both are severely brain damaged and were unable to assess the offer themselves.

Victims of thalidomide currently receive pensions from the German government, but campaigners fear that a change to German law, which comes into effect today, may jeopardise any settlement payments made by the State.

They are concerned that settlements could be deducted from the new regime of payments made by the German government.

In a statement, the Department of Health said it had acted in good faith.

It said solicitors for the survivors had suggested a payment be made ahead of the German deadline to avoid running foul of the new arrangements.

It said the State remains committed to re-opening discussions with the survivors regarding further supports.

The ITA rejected this, saying the offer had been presented as a full and final offer and not an interim payment.

Around 20 victims are currently suing the State and have clashed with the Government over negotiations regarding compensation.

In the Programme for Government there was a commitment to reopen discussions with the ITA about further compensation for victims. See video report

Call for Minister of Health to honour pledges

The Irish Thalidomide Association is calling on Minister for Health James Reilly to honour a commitment in the Programme for Government regarding further compensation for victims of the drug.

It follows an announcement yesterday that Thalidomide survivors in Germany are to receive €120m in additional entitlements per annum.

Thalidomide was prescribed to mothers in the 1950s and 1960s as a treatment for morning sickness but it caused babies to be born with physical deformities.

There are 32 survivors of Thalidomide here.

Additional compensation, announced yesterday, for German Thalidomide survivors follows recent similar increased entitlements for survivors in the United Kingdom and Australia.

The Irish Thalidomide Association is asking why Irish survivors are being ignored.

They claim the authorities here failed to remove the drug from the shelves for almost a year after all other countries had removed it in 1961.

They also say that there are issues regarding the protection of their monthly payments from the German Contergan Foundation, as the offer was never approved or ruled on by the High Court.

The Minister has said that he fully appreciates the scale of the health and social care needs of the survivors of Thalidomide.

To this end, he has engaged with the survivors and wishes to be able to offer a package of health and social care services along with some additional financial support.

This includes a full assessment of their care needs.

The offer is still on the table and is without prejudice to the outcome of any legal proceedings the survivors might take.

The Minister wants to work closely with survivors on their healthcare needs.

Minister James Reilly and Minister Kathleen Lynch stand ready to meet the Irish Thalidomide Association to try and reach an agreed outcome. See report

Department Statement on Thalidomide July 9, 2012

Minister Reilly has met with the groups representing Thalidomide survivors and has been trying to make progress on reaching an agreement that takes account of their concerns and needs. A key objective of the Minister is to provide for the health and personal social care needs of the persons involved. To that end – among the actions taken - the Department and the HSE have prepared arrangements to ensure that all survivors of Thalidomide are provided with an assessment of their health needs led by Dr Paul O’Connell, Consultant Rheumatologist, Beaumont Hospital and a senior HSE nursing official. The discussions have also dealt with the issue of financial needs. The Minister has indicated that he is prepared to consider a financial gesture of goodwill. The State has been making payments to Irish survivors of Thalidomide since 1975. The payments have been made because it was considered appropriate to make provision for survivors of Thalidomide. As the State does not bear a legal liability the payments have not been made in a legal context. The payments made by the Irish State were designed to augment payments made to the survivors by the German Foundation set up to compensate survivors of the drug. Minister Reilly has stated that he is willing to enter into discussions about a • healthcare package on a non statutory basis • financial gesture of goodwill having regard to current economic circumstances • statement to the Dail recognising the challenges faced by survivors The Irish Thalidomide Association has stated that it fundamentally disagrees with the State's position and is unwilling to engage on this basis. Having taken legal advice, the Minister is informed that the State does not have a legal liability for the injuries suffered by Irish survivors of Thalidomide. All Attorneys General who have considered this issue have concurred with this position. The Minister wishes to make clear that his department stands ready to meet when the representatives of survivors of Thalidomide would wish to do so.

What the Govenment Offered Irish Thalidomide Survivors, 27 April 2010

  • A once-off  ex-gratia payment of €2m (amounting to €62,500 each) to be divided equally between the Irish survivors, as a practical expression of the Government's sympathy;

ITA members reject this because it is derisory. The original 1975 'arrangement' was based on shortened life expectancy, with survivors not expected to live past our 20s. This offer will not address our financial needs into old age as our deteriorating health and mobility decreases.

  • The payment of an annual lump sum, in addition to current payments, equivalent to a further German annual payment which commenced in 2009, of up to €3,680, in the most severe category.

Having waited almost a year for the State Claims Agency report, the Government has shown no initiative in finding a reasonable solution to the Thalidomide issue.  This offer of an extra €1 to €8 a day adds insult to injury for severally disabled survivors.  Continuing to "maintain the historical relativity of German and Irish compensation rates" shows a flawed strategy on behalf of the state considering our fellow German survivors went on hunger strike to protest against this aspect of the compensation in 2009.

  • Provision whereby, if an individual thalidomide survivor has applied for, but does not qualify for either the Disabled Drivers Tax Concession Scheme or the Motorised Transport Grant, their cases will be examined with a view to providing an equivalent level of financial assistance to assist with their transport needs.

This grant is already available to nearly all thalidomiders so it does not address the real cost of adaptions in any way. The cost of adapting a car for one of the ITA's members currently costs €16,000.The maximum available on the motorised transport grant is €5,020.50.

  • Provision for special care packages for thalidomide survivors living in Ireland, to be provided following individual assessments of need carried out by an independent expert to be appointed by the Minister. Dr. Paul O’Connell, Consultant Rheumatologist, Beaumont Hospital has agreed to conduct multi-disciplinary assessments for this purpose.  
  • The designation of a senior manager in the HSE to act as liaison with regard to the ongoing health and personal social services needs of the Irish survivors. Ms Carmel Buckley, a senior nursing official in the HSE will act as liaison for this purpose.

This offer is simply more ink on paper and is a repeat of the failed promises in the 1970s that were given to our parents, who were fearful that our future medical needs would not be met.  Unless the medical needs are put on a statutory footing then it is the same flawed offer of 35 years ago.


Finola Cassidy Spokesperson & Secretary of Irish Thalidomide Association call 086 915 1235

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