- Thalidomide was never officially available in the US. Grünenthal’s US licensee partner, the William S. Merrell Company of Cincinnati (later renamed Richardson-Merrell), was however allowed to supply doctors with millions of Thalidomide samples under the trade-name “Kevadon”.
- The actual number of Thalidomide babies born in the US has never been officially determined because it was never approved and therefore not tracked. There was no attention paid to the problem of the sample pills and who may have taken them.
- In September 1960 FDA doctor and pharmacologist, Canadian-born Frances Kelsey, was put in charge of Merrell’s application for “Kevadon”. She never gave permission for the drug to be sold in the US. Kelsey said the scientific research was simply not sufficient enough. One of Kelsey’s concerns: Could Thalidomide harm a fetus?
- In 1962 Kelsey was awarded the President’s Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service by President John F. Kennedy for being vigilant and saving untold numbers of women and children, a horrific outcome had the drug been approved. It is the highest award for a civilian.
- The only Thalidomide trial ever ending with a verdict took place in Los Angeles in 1971. Merrell had to pay $2.5 million to nine-year-old Peggy McCarrick, who was born with malformed hips and legs, and $250,000 to her mother (a total of about 16 million in today’s dollars). This corporation and other corporations need to learn “that they can’t play with human life as they did in this case”, Peggy’s lawyer said in his closing statement.
- US Thalidomide survivors are currently still trying to file a class action lawsuit against Grünenthal. In 2011, 11 survivors filed an action for damages caused by the drug. 38 additional Thalidomiders had joined the claim by 2012. For a while things looked positive and the courts ruled that the statute of limitations would not apply. Subsequently the legal wrangling has the class action in a state of limbo.
- In 2014, when German historians from the University of Münster asked Grünenthal for access to the company’s archives, Grünenthal denied their request. Their explanation: Complex civil damages procedures currently still pending in the US. Their denial raises questions about what the company archives might possibly contain.
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