Britain apologizes to Thalidomide patients

Jan. 15, 2010 at 1:34 PM
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LONDON, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- The British government's formal apology to Thalidomide victims comes 50 years too late but is important nonetheless, a Thalidomide Trust official said.

Speaking at the House of Commons Thursday, British Health Minister Mike O'Brien formally apologized to the estimated 466 Thalidomide survivors in Britain.

O'Brien expressed "sincere regret" the government did not do more to stop prescriptions of the drug for pregnant women in the 1950s and 1960s as a treatment for morning sickness and insomnia, The Times of London reported Friday. The drug was withdrawn in 1961 after thousands of babies were born deformed.

Guy Tweedy, a spokesman for the Thalidomide Trust, said the apology came 50 years too late but meant "as much in some ways as" the $32.5 million in additional support for British survivors announced last month. The money is to be administered through the trust.

In the 1970s, the drug's British manufacturer, Distillers Biochemicals, paid $45 million in compensation to survivors, which has averaged about $32,000 per person a year.

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