Thalidomide manufacturer apologises for first time in 50 years

Thalidomide survivor Louise Medus Mansell Credit: ITN

The German company which invented the birth defect pregnancy drug Thalidomide has issued its first apology in 50 years.

Grunenthal chief executive Harald Stock said in a statement the company "regrets" the consequences of the drug, which was used to combat morning sickness but led to the birth of children without limbs during the 1950s and 1960s.

The apology was rejected as insufficient by the Thalidomide Agency UK, which represents people who were affected by the drug in Britain.

ITV Reporter Sejal Karia reports:

Freddie Astbury, the charity's head consultant, said the company needed to "put their money where their mouth is" rather than simply express regret.

Mr Astbury, who was born in Chester in 1959 with no arms and no legs after his mother took the drug, said:

Mr Stock said that the company had failed to reach out "from person to person" to the victims and their mothers over the past 50 years. He added: "Instead, we have been silent and we are very sorry for that".

Thalidomide was removed from the market in 1961 after it was linked to birth defects, with many victims only recently having received compensation.

Mr Astbury said the company had always denied it had anything to do with the birth defects and was only apologising now because of court proceedings brought by victims in Australia.

There are currently 458 people in the UK who were affected by the drug, according to Thalidomide UK. But for every Thalidomide baby that lived, there were 10 that died.

In January 2010, the Government expressed "sincere regret" for the decision to give the drug the stamp of approval and set up a funding scheme to help survivors cope.