A leading Thalidomide campaigner has described news the Government is to continue funding the ongoing health costs of victims of the “wonder drug” for the next ten years as an “early Christmas present”.
In 2009, the Department of Health (DoH) agreed to pay a multi-million-pound grant, spread over three years, to the Thalidomide Trust, which then administered the money to the surviving UK Thalidomide victims.
Guy Tweedy, 50, said the renewed grant meant a great deal to the 431 Thalidomiders still living in the UK today, and would cover some of the costs of their ever-increasing health needs and the rising expense of their day-to-day living with deformities caused by the “wonder drug”.
In May 1962 the drug – prescribed to pregnant women as a cure for morning sickness – was withdrawn after it was linked to crippling side effects in new born babies.
A least 2,000 were born with deformities brought about directly by Thalidomide, and more than half of them died within their first year. An unknown number also died in the womb.
Common deformities included shortened limbs, blindness, brain damage, missing sexual organs and missing internal organs.
Mr Tweedy, from Harrogate, who has a shortened left arm and deformed fingers on both hands, said:
This is very welcome news and is an early Christmas present for all those who are still living with the terrible effects of the Thalidomide drug.
It will make a huge difference to all of the survivors and has given us security for the next decade.
Mr Tweedy added:
I want to thank all the MPs who have supported us in our continued fight for justice, in particular local MPs Andrew Jones and Alex Shelbrooke. The payment will allow one Thalidomider, born without arms, to buy the special adaptations she has been unable to afford, and another with no arms or legs to make a down payment on a van adapted so he can drive it from his wheelchair.
Official announcements of proportionate funding contributions are expected from the devolved health administrations in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales in the next few days.
The drug was developed in the mid 1950s in Germany by Chemie Grunenthal. In 1958, Thalidomide was described by the UK Government’s Cohen Committee as a ‘great drug with proven value’.
The drinks giant Distillers secured the rights to be the UK distributer of Thalidomide – also known as Distoval and Asmoval.