24 Dec 2009

NZ thalidomide survivors welcome UK compensation

6:29 pm on 24 December 2009

New Zealanders born disabled because their mothers took the drug thalidomide while pregnant say the Government should follow Britain's lead in offering them compensation.

The drug, which was widely prescribed throughout the 1950s and 1960s for morning sickness, caused serious birth defects in more than 10,000 people worldwide.

British-born thalidomide survivor Terry Wiles, who now lives in Hamilton, welcomes Britain's decision to award $45 million to those affected.

But he says he is angry at the length of time it has taken, and he hopes other governments will move faster.

New Zealand survivors are banding together to campaign for compensation.

British government

The British government is making the funding available for people disabled after their mothers took the drug from 1958-61.

An apology will also be made in Parliament in the new year.

Campaigners have long battled for additional support for the 466 UK survivors disabled by drug during the period, when it was prescribed for morning sickness.

The Thalidomide Trust will be responsible for distributing the grant in a three-year pilot scheme to help meet the health needs of those affected.

The BBC reports thalidomide was developed in Germany in the 1950s. Prescribed as a "wonder drug" for insomnia, coughs, colds and headaches, it was also given to pregnant women to relieve the symptoms of morning sickness.

A link with birth defects was shown in 1961, which led to the drug being taken off the market.

Affected babies commonly suffered missing or deformed limbs and severe shortening of arms or legs.

The drug also causes malformations of the eyes and ears, heart, genitals, kidneys and digestive tract. Many babies would have died before birth.

Thalidomide was withdrawn after 2000 babies were born with limb deformities and other damage.