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Germany

Pharmaceutical Firm to Hike Thalidomide Compensation

Aachen-based pharmaceuticals company Gruenenthal announced Thursday, May 8, that it would be paying an extra 50 million euros ($76 million) into the trust fund it set up in the 1970s to compensate Thalidomide victims.

Twin boys, one a thalidomide victim

The thalidomide generation has now turned fifty

Launched on the market in October 1957, the sedative caused an estimated 10,000 unborn children around the world to develop without full arms, legs and other organs.

The children were born disabled after their mothers took the drug as a remedy for morning sickness. The over-the-counter remedy was taken off the market in 1961 and better drug regulation introduced round the globe.

Government left in the lurch

Victims say that as they near the age of 50 and their parents die off, they need extra help to relieve sore joints and compensate for a life of poor earnings.

Until now, the 2,870 victims in Germany have received a stipend of up to 545 euros monthly, depending on their degree of disability, from the fund set up by Gruenenthal and the German government. The company contributed some 55 million euros, the government 100 million.

However, Gruenenthal's share has been used up by 1997, leaving the government solely responsible.

Extra help needed

After a recent public outcry against the limited help for aging thalidomide victims, the country's ruling coalition parties agreed in February to double the monthly stipend paid to people disabled by the drug.

The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) agreed to appropriate 15 million euros ($22 million) annually to increase the state-backed stipends.

German victims have demanded a tripling of the stipend, saying victims in Britain and elsewhere were compensated better. Spanish victims have only recently begun a legal fight for compensation.

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