July 30, 2012 — Lynette Rowe is an Australian woman whose pregnant mother took Thalidomide, a drug that treats morning sickness, which caused Rowe to be born without arms or legs.
She filed a birth defect lawsuit against three companies responsible for the drug. Two of the companies agreed to settle with Rowe for several million dollars, but the drug’s manufacturer will not agree to a settlement.
Although the litigation will continue, Rowe is pleased with the settlement and hopes her case will help other people born with severe Thalidomide birth defects. According to Rowe, “It shows you don’t need arms or legs to change the world.”
Rowe’s lawyer said that “The amount of the settlement will remain private but I can say it is a multimillion dollar amount and will be sufficient to provide a very good level of care for Lyn for the rest of her life.”
Thalidomide is a drug that was marketed as a treatment for morning-sickness, and was taken by many pregnant women during the 1950s and 1960s. After Thalidomide was linked to an increased risk of birth defects, the drug was withdrawn from the market in 1961. Thalidomide was linked to severe birth defects in thousands of babies. Thalidomide was never marketed in the United States because a couple scientists at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) withheld approval due to safety concerns.
Many people who were born with Thalidomide birth defects have filed birth defect lawsuits against the drug-makers and distributors. Thalidomide is manufactured by Grunenthal, a German drug company. It was distributed in Australia by U.K.-based Distillers Company Ltd., now known as Diageo Scotland Ltd.
Distillers and Diageo have agreed to settle, but Grunenthal has not. Lawyers are expected to push back the trial against Distillers and Diageo for another year to give the companies time to settle lawsuits with more than 100 people who are part of a class action lawsuit. By settling the claims, the distributors will avoid a costly and time-consuming trial.
Grunenthal officials have stated that they will not be settling the lawsuits. According to an official statement, “Grunenthal believes that it acted responsibly in the development of Thalidomide, and greatly regrets the consequences of the Thalidomide tragedy.”
Litigation against the companies has been ongoing for several years. All three companies have already paid settlements in many of the cases. Furthermore, in 2010, the U.K. government officially apologized to the victims of Thalidomide birth defects. The government also offered a payment of 20 million pounds ($31 million) to help the victims.