Irish Thalidomide Association

changing, challenging and facing the future

Interesting Links to The Stories of Thalidomiders

Now, almost 60 years after the drug was unleashed on an unsuspecting public, a class action lawsuit in Australia finally unveils the hidden truth.
The feature documentary ‘NO LIMITS’ follows the tragic story through the remarkable life affirming journeys of survivors around the world, as they grow from children to adults, determined to succeed, still waiting for adequate support and compensation from their governments, the drug’s distributors and the drug’s manufacturer, Grünenthal.

Thalidomide: 60-year timeline

Thalidomide was used in the late 1950s and early 1960s to combat morning sickness, but led to children being born without limbs. Fifty years later its German inventor has issued an apology.

1953 The anti-morning sickness drug thalidomide is created in Germany by the Grünenthal Group.

1958 Thalidomide is first licensed for use in the UK.

1961 An Australian doctor, William McBride, writes to the Lancet medical journal after noticing an increase in the number of deformed babies born at his hospital, all to mothers who had taken thalidomide. The drug is withdrawn later the same year.

1968 The UK manufacturer Distillers Biochemicals Ltd (now Diageo) reaches a compensation settlement after a legal battle with the families of those affected.

1972 The Sunday Times publishes a front-page lead under the banner "Our thalidomide children, a cause for national shame", part of a long-running campaign for further compensation. Eventually, a total of £28m is paid out by Diageo during the 1970s.

2004 Thalidomide is made available on a named patient basis, meaning doctors can give it to patients only on a case-by-case basis and at their own discretion, under strict controls.

2005 A Kenyan boy with no arms or legs is granted a visa to travel to the UK to receive medical treatment after a campaign by the charity Thalidomide UK. It is not known what caused 14-month-old Freddie Musean Mtile's disabilities, but the charity says the drug is still used in the treatment of leprosy and Aids in developing countries. Mtile dies from a fungal infection the following year. Separately, Diageo agrees to more than double its compensation payouts to thalidomide victims from £2.8m a year to about £6.5m.

2007 A study shows that thalidomide can significantly improve the survival chances of bone-marrow cancer patients. Researchers say adding thalidomide to standard treatment extended the lives of elderly patients with multiple myeloma by an average of 18 months.

2008 The drug is approved for the treatment of multiple myeloma by the European Medicines Agency.

2009 Scientists at the University of Aberdeen claim they have solved a "50-year puzzle" after discovering how thalidomide causes limb defects. They found that a component of the drug prevented the growth of new blood vessels in developing embryos, stunting limb growth. The government agrees to pay a £20m grant to the Thalidomide Trust over three years, after another campaign by the Sunday Times.

2010 The UK health minister Mike O'Brien makes a formal apology to thalidomide victims, expressing "sincere regret and deep sympathy" on behalf of the government. The apology gets a mixed response from victims, with some describing it as too little, too late. Eighteen Northern Irish thalidomide survivors receive a formal apology and £1m compensation from the devolved assembly.

2012 The inventor of thalidomide, the Grünenthal Group, releases a statement saying it regrets the consequences of the drug.

Don't Tell Me I Can't - The  Story of a Survivor

Born without arms or legs due to Thalidomide, life could have turned out very differently. From growing up in a working class family during the Troubles of Northern Ireland, to the USA and back again, this story is of one woman’s determination to live life to the full.

Through support of family and friends, as well as sheer determination Leigh overcame prejudices, lived through the Troubles in Northern Ireland, escaped life with an alcoholic husband while raising two babies, only to find love again.

This is not the story of a “victim” but instead one of a woman who has learned and grown through the experiences life has thrown her way, has never let anyone steal her dreams and is still an activist working for dignity and respect for all people with disabilities.Order Leigh's book here



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