Thalidomide: sleepwalking into a pharma disaster

Inexcusable delays and government inertia helped keep thalidomide on the Irish market for a fatally long time, writes Susan Mitchell.

Susan Mitchell

Deputy Editor and Health Editor @susmitchellsbp
27th January, 2013
Finola Cassidy, spokeswoman for the Irish Thalidomide Association. Photo: Tony O'Shea

Sometimes referred to as the "last war crime of the Nazis", the thalidomide disaster was one of the darkest episodes in pharmaceutical history, and remains a terrible stain on the record of successive Irish governments. At the centre of this global drug scandal is a company called Chemie Grünenthal, which has revenues of more than €1 billion and is headquartered in the German town of Stolberg.

In 1958, the drug manufacturer issued the...

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