Spanish birth defect victims win damages from German drug maker | News | DW | 20.11.2013
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Spanish birth defect victims win damages from German drug maker

A court in Spain has ruled that German pharmaceutical company Grünenthal must compensate people born with birth defects in the 1960s due to the drug thalidomide. The company must pay at least 20,000 euros to each victim.

The announcement from the court in Madrid on Wednesday orders Grünenthal to pay 20,000 euros ($27,200) to each victim per degree of disability.

The court ruled that the company had been "negligent" in permitting thalidomide to be further prescribed in Spain despite the risks of birth defects.

The total amount of the damages to be paid to Spanish victims is unclear. The case was originally brought by 180 victims seeking 204 million euros in damages. The group representing the plaintiffs, known as Avite, says 3,000 Spanish babies had been born with birth defects because of thalidomide.

The presence of thalidomide victims in Spain was not officially recognized until 2010, when the government granted 23 of them financial aid for their disability.

Thalidomide, known in Germany as Contergan, was frequently prescribed from the 1950s onwards to combat morning sickness in pregnant women. It resulted in thousands of children worldwide being born with defects that included abnormally short limbs or a lack of arms, legs or hips altogether.

The drug was withdrawn from the German market in 1961, but continued being prescribed in Spain, Canada, Australia and Japan and other countries for some time longer. It was pulled from the Spanish market in 1965.

mz/dr (dpa, AFP, AP)