Thalidomide scandal revisited – Raue LLP achieves success for thalidomide victim in court

50 years after the opening of the criminal proceedings regarding the pharmaceutical thalidomide in Germany (trade mark: Contergan), the Higher Regional Court Cologne has confirmed criticism about links between the thalidomide manufacturer Grünenthal and the Federal Contergan Foundation for Disabled People. Raue LLP represented Andreas Meyer, a thalidomide victim, in the legal proceedings.

Contergan was marketed at the end of the 1950s as a sedative and sleep aid for pregnant women. It caused babies to be born with severe malformations. As compensation, the Contergan Foundation pays out monthly pensions to thalidomide victims in Germany. A medical commission established with the Contergan Foundation decides about the recognition as thalidomide victim and the amount of the pension to be paid.

Andreas Meyer is chairman of the Federal Association of Thalidomide Victims and Grünenthal Victims and member of the board of the Contergan Foundation. Meyer was heard as an expert before a committee of the German Parliament on the situation of thalidomide victims. There, he stated that Grünenthal had looked at the medical records of thalidomide victims for over 30 years. Grünenthal had also paid experts of the medical commission of the Contergan Foundation for over 30 years. The respondent, a former board member of the Contergan Foundation, described Meyer’s statements to the members of the Parliament committee as untrue. According to the respondent, Grünenthal had never had access to medical files of the Contergan Foundation. The medical experts had always been paid with funds from the Contergan Foundation. Meyer challenged those statements in court. Both the Regional Court Bonn and the Higher Regional Court Cologne decided in his favour and prohibited the respondent’s allegations.

Meyer criticized correctly: For decades, Grünenthal’s in-house legal counsel was the chairman of the medical commission of the Contergan Foundation at the same time. The medical files were presented to him as the chairman of the commission. For decades, Grünenthal also made payments to the medical experts of the Contergan Foundation. For the thalidomide victims in Germany, the interrelations between Grünenthal, the manufacturer of the pharmaceutical causing their disabilities, and the Contergan Foundation, responsible for their rights, is a scandal.

The judgment of the Higher Regional Court Cologne is now legally binding. The full German text is available here.

(19 June 2018)