THE STORY OF THALIDOMIDE by Sunday Times of London--The Insight Team of
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The thalidomide children are teenagers now and most have received financial compensation from the companies that developed and distributed this prototypically damaging drug in the early Sixties, but pharmaceutical laws are still fuzzy, which makes this exhaustive inquiry both distressing and urgent. The original circumstances are shabby: not only was thalidomide ineffective for the conditions it was intended to treat, it was erroneously promoted as non-toxic and recommended, untested, for pregnant women, while its immediately observable side effects were swept under the rug. As in other investigative probes, the London Sunday Times staff has assiduously researched these aspects, uncovering tenacious corporate irresponsibility and legal barriers which stymied humane intervention efforts. Country by country, the Insight Team demonstrates how the observations of isolated, skeptical individuals converged--a detective story featuring newborns with a chilling array of deformities and drug company officials ignorantly and then arrogantly disclaiming culpability. This is also, secondarily but in large measure, a documentation of the Times reporters' growing involvement in the British case where the law severely limited reporting, a restriction which the newspaper ultimately challenged because the law overwhelmingly disadvantaged the afflicted children and their families. The families, nonetheless, endured monumental strains, sometimes insurmountable ones. A very few adapted heroically. Many more reached a bearable accommodation. Some never recovered--the divorce and mental breakdown rates are high--and in several wrenching instances the children, embittered and bold in their hard-won financial independence, threatened to turn the parents out. That so much misery could follow from carelessness and coverup is tragic; that it could recur is fearsome, yet the conditions which countenanced this disaster persist in most countries. This work should stir up debate: the thalidomide particulars are impeccably collated and the more enduring general issues are systematically defined.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1978
Publisher: Viking