Canada announces new thalidomide compensation
March 6, 2015 2:28 PM   Subscribe

Canada, long considered a "global outlier" on compensation for thalidomide survivors, has announced new lump sum compensation payments.

...countries with significant numbers of thalidomide victims have stepped forward with long-term support. In Britain, nearly 470 people get annual payments from both the British government and the successor of the drug’s distributor, totalling an average of more than $88,000 per victim per year. The German government gives its 2,700 survivors pensions that can reach more than $110,000 a year.

Ottawa gave Canadian victims a one-time compensation payout totalling $8.5-million in 1991. It came to $52,000 to $82,000 a person, depending on their degree of disability. The victims call it a pittance.

Thalidomide was a sedative originally marketed in the late 1950s and early 1960s by the German drug company Chemie Grünenthal GmbH as a treatment for morning sickness in early pregancy, but by 1961 it had become clear that it caused severe birth defects when taken by pregnant women.

Thalidomide was never approved for use in the United States, thanks to Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey, but it was marketed in Europe, Brazil, Australia, Japan and Canada.

Canada didn't withdraw thalidomide from the market until well after disclosure of its side effects and its removal from the market in the UK and Germany.

This was followed by decades of struggle by survivors against drug companies and the government for recognition and compensation.

In the UK, survivors waged an extensive campaign for compensation. Some of them are profiled in the BBC documentary The Fifty Year Fight.

Meanwhile, German thalidomide survivors say they have been hindered from accessing the compensation promised to them in 2013.

In 1998, the FDA approved thalidomide for use under very strict conditions (pdf) for the treatment of leprosy. It is now also used in the treatment of HIV-related conditions and some cancers.

posted by mandolin conspiracy (3 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
An ersatz thalidomide is the Macguffin that jump-starts the story of 80's gore-fest Scanners, written and directed by Canadian body-horror pioneer David Cronenberg.
posted by infinitewindow at 3:01 PM on March 6, 2015

I struggle sometimes to think about the cost of something like the side effects of Thalidamide in terms of monetary compensation, but I applaud the step that Canada has taken. I think that full and public recognition has to be a significant part of the compensation.
posted by thebestusernameever at 7:14 PM on March 6, 2015

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