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Crippen asks what's behind the apology given to survivors of thalidomide

Fifty years after the one of the worst disasters in medical history, hundreds of survivors of the thalidomide scandal have finally got an apology from the government and a new £20 million compensation package.

Mike O'Brien, minister of health, recently announced a new funding scheme that will help survivors cope with the changing needs of age. He also offered what campaigners said they wanted even more – an apology.

"The Government wishes to express its sincere regret and deep sympathy for the injury and suffering endured by all those affected when expectant mothers took the drug thalidomide between 1958 and 1961," he told the House of Commons.

"The apology is just as important as the financial settlement," said Guy Tweedy, one of those leading the campaign for a better deal."The money will help people to buy wheelchairs and adapt their houses and cars for a phase of life they were never expected to see. "They didn't think we would be alive today. They thought we would all be dead by 2007," he added.

In 1957, the World Health Organisation had warned the UK that its lack of adequate pharmaceutical regulation was courting disaster. It took the thalidomide disaster to reform the system, bringing in the sort of regulation we have today. The Medicines Act 1968 laid down stringent standards that had to be met for the safety and efficacy of drugs.

Posted by Dave Lupton, 14 March 2010

Last modified by Dave Lupton, 14 March 2010