was a sedative drug that was used to treat morning sickness and to aid sleep. It was prescribed to some pregnant women between 1957 and 1961. In 1961 the medicine was withdrawn from sale because it causes of birth defects, such as malformed limbs.
Thalidomide was developed by German pharmaceutical company Grünenthal. The research was led by Heinrich Mückter, a former Nazi Party member and army physician.
The problem was, as the New York Times
comments, the drug was not properly tested before release and scientists involved did not believe any drug taken by a pregnant woman could pass across the placental barrier and harm the developing fetus. The failing
was not carrying out trials on pregnant animals to see if the sleeping pill affected the unborn animal.
Through the use of the drug, the FDA notes
, up to 20,000 children may have been born with birth defects and many died. It was not until the early 1960s that a sufficient number of reports about children born with severe congenital abnormalities came to light.
After fifty years, the manufacturer of thalidomide, now called Chemie Grünenthal GmbH, has issued a public apology.
Mr Stock, Grünenthal's chief executive, issued his company's apology
at the unveiling of a bronze statue symbolizing a child born without limbs because of thalidomide.
Stock is quoted by the BBC
as saying: "We ask for forgiveness that for nearly 50 years we didn't find a way of reaching out to you from human being to human being. We ask that you regard our long silence as a sign of the shock that your fate caused in us."
Although the apology has been issued, for some activist groups this is too little too late and many groups are continuing with a quest for compensation.