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Woman Wins Millions in Thalidomide Birth Defect Lawsuit


July 30, 2012 — Lynette Rowe of Melbourne, Australia, was born without arms or legs after her pregnant mother took Thalidomide, an anti-morning sickness drug.

After filing a birth defect lawsuit against the drug-maker, two distributor companies agreed to a multi-million dollar settlement. The drug’s manufacturer has refused to settle and the litigation will continue.

Even so, Rowe hopes that her case will help others born with disabilities caused by the drug. “It shows you don’t need arms or legs to change the world,” she said.

Although the terms of the settlement agreement remain confidential, 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 morning-sickness drug that was given to pregnant women during the 1950s and 1960s. It was taken off the market in 1961 after being linked to an increased risk of birth defects. Thousands of babies were born with birth defects due to the drug. The drug was never marketed in the United States, largely due to the skepticism of a handful of scientists at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Three companies face lawsuits from victims around the world: Grunenthal (the German-based drug-maker), Distillers Company Ltd. (a U.K.-based company that sold Thalidomide in Australia) and Diageo Scotland Ltd. (the company that succeeded Distillers). Diageo and Distillers agreed to settle with Rowe, but Grunenthal has not agreed to settle.

At least 100 more Thalidomide birth defect lawsuits are currently pending against the companies as part of a class action. It is expected that Diageo and Distillers will settle these claims within the next year, avoiding a costly and time-consuming trial.

Grunenthal, the company that created Thalidomide, stated “Grunenthal believes that it acted responsibly in the development of Thalidomide, and greatly regrets the consequences of the Thalidomide tragedy.”

The litigation against Grunenthal, Diageo, and Distillers has been ongoing for several years. All three companies have paid settlements. The British government has also gave victims a formal apology in 2010, and offered a payment of 20 million pounds ($31 million) to the victims.

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