On the Agenda - Apology to victims of thalidomide

In a nutshell The Government has issued an apology to the victims of the thalidomide scandal, expressing 'sincere regret' and 'sympathy'. Health minister Mike O'Brien made the apology in a statement to MPs last Thursday.

Health minister: Mike O'Brien
Health minister: Mike O'Brien

Why is this important?

The apology follows the announcement in December that the Government would fund a £20m, three-year pilot scheme to meet the health needs of thalidomide survivors. The 466 thalidomiders are beneficiaries of the Thalidomide Trust, which will operate the scheme. It reflects the fact survivors are living longer than expected and will have increasing health needs.

What is the background?

Between 1958 and 1961, the drug thalidomide was used by expectant mothers to control symptoms of morning sickness. It was withdrawn from sale in 1961 after babies were born with limb deformities and other damage. The drug's UK manufacturer, Distillers Biochemicals, paid around £28m in compensation in the 1970s following a legal battle by the families of those affected.

PR support

The DH press team was told on Thursday morning that the oral statement was scheduled to be read out in the House of Commons later that day. The team phoned the broadcast and print media to set up interviews.

Media coverage

O'Brien conducted interviews with ITN, Sky, PA, Channel 4 News, the BBC and Radio 5 Live.

2,000 babies in the UK were born with problems linked to the drug

5,000 babies were born elsewhere in the world with problems.

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