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Thalidomide

Our responsibility today

As the company that developed and distributed Thalidomide, the tragedy will remain a significant part of our history. Grünenthal’s family shareholders, and the company as a whole, deeply regret the consequences of the Thalidomide tragedy and we take our responsibility very seriously. That is why our engagement to improve the individual living situations of people affected by Thalidomide is so important to us. In addition, we recognise our duty to keep providing information about the tragedy and about the responsible use of pharmaceuticals.

An international support system for Thalidomide survivors

Financial support programmes have been established in all of the countries where Thalidomide was marketed by Grünenthal or its licensing partners at that time. This support is frequently backed by state programmes. Today, there are various forms of support available for people who were affected by products containing Thalidomide.

The Grünenthal Foundation for Thalidomide-affected People

The Grünenthal Foundation was established in 2011. Its mission is to improve quality of life for people affected by a Thalidomide-containing product from Grünenthal, its distribution partners or its licensing partners by providing specific, needs-oriented support. Personal communication with people affected by the tragedy is the key to the Foundation’s work. The team takes time to learn about each individual’s needs and then makes sure that the Foundation offers support in ways that make a real positive impact. So far, the Grünenthal Foundation has approved more than 2,500 individual applications from Thalidomide survivors. Additionally, the Foundation has implemented various national and international projects.
... Visit the Grünenthal Foundation’s website for more information

The Contergan Foundation for Disabled People

In 1972, the Contergan Foundation for Disabled People (Contergan Foundation) was established as a federal German foundation under public law. Since then, it has provided Thalidomide survivors in 38 countries with financial assistance including monthly pensions and individual payments. The Foundation is overseen by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth. It acts independently from Grünenthal. To establish the Contergan Foundation, Grünenthal and the federal government each contributed 50 million euros (100 million German Mark at that time). In 2009, Grünenthal voluntarily paid an additional 50 million euros into the Contergan Foundation.

Download the infographic

... Visit the Contergan Foundation’s website for more information (German only)

Historical background of the Thalidomide tragedy

Thalidomide was sold as a sedative and sleep aid in many countries between the years of 1957 and 1961. It was marketed by licensing and distribution partners of Grünenthal under different brand names including Contergan, Softenon and Distaval.

The Contergan Foundation estimates that around 10,000 children worldwide were born with deformities that could be attributed to Thalidomide. About half of them died at or shortly after birth. The deformities of the babies included shortened arms and legs, underdeveloped outer ears, and others.

The “Thalidomide Trial” against nine senior Grünenthal employees tried to answer the question of who was responsible for the tragedy. It was one of the most complex criminal proceedings in German legal history. After two and a half years, the trial was concluded in December 1970 without a verdict.

Parallel to the trial, the families of the affected people agreed on a settlement with Grünenthal, laying the cornerstone of today’s system of financial support.

The fate of the Thalidomide babies and the related court proceedings in Germany are still widely known and referred to as the “Thalidomide Scandal”.

... Visit our Thalidomide website for more historical information

Is Thalidomide still used today?

Thalidomide is only used today in specific circumstances to aid severe diseases such as bone marrow cancer and some autoimmune diseases. The manufacturing and use of the substance are subject to strict regulations.

Grünenthal no longer produces any Thalidomide-containing products. We have no connection to third parties who offer Thalidomide-containing products.

... Visit our Thalidomide website for more information about the active substance