Australian thalidomide survivors and their families have received a formal apology for the role that governments played in the tragedy. Source: News.com.au.
Thalidomide, the morning-sickness drug branded a “wonder treatment” for pregnant women, caused birth defects in thousands of babies worldwide.
It was widely distributed in Australia in the 1960s but was not tested on pregnant women before approval. The crisis led to the formation of the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
It was later found to cause malformation of limbs, facial features and internal organs in unborn children.
An estimated 10,000 babies were born around the world with such defects. There are 146 registered survivors in Australia, however the exact number of those affected is unknown.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese addressed survivors and their families yesterday, delivering an unreserved apology on behalf of Australia, but acknowledged saying sorry “does not balance the years of inaction of inadequate support”.
Thalidomide was distributed for sale in Australia between August 1960 and November 1961. Australia declared thalidomide a prohibited import in August 1962.
When it was linked to birth defects, neither state nor the federal governments took swift enough action to ban its importation or sale, a 2019 Senate inquiry found.
About 20 per cent of survivors may not have been affected if the Australian government had acted faster, the report estimated.
Unlike in other countries, no efforts were made to recall and destroy the product that was in doctors’ clinics or pharmacies.
The inquiry found the government had a moral obligation to survivors. The formal apology was a recommendation of the 2019 inquiry, alongside the creation of a National Site of Recognition.
Mr Albanese said the apology “takes in one of the darkest chapters in Australia’s medical history.”
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said the apology was “more than overdue”.