Observations Medicine and the Media

Thalidomide—the drama continues

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39409.445058.59 (Published 29 November 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:1125
  1. Annette Tuffs, freelance journalist
  1. Heidelberg
  1. ATuffs{at}web.de

    A controversial drama retelling the thalidomide tragedy has been broadcast in Germany, but not before a behind the scenes battle with the drug's manufacturer. Annette Tuffs reports

    When a drug causes adverse effects, do the people affected need the help of media pressure to support their claims to compensation? This is certainly true in the case of thalidomide, Germany's worst ever pharmaceutical tragedy, which started in 1957. Its 2700 survivors in Germany were almost forgotten until a two part television drama named after the drug's German trade name, Contergan, was broadcast during prime time on 7 and 8 November, highlighting their fate and reaching millions of people. Several accompanying documentaries, interviews, and talk shows have provided additional information.

    More than 50 years later, Sebastian Wirtz, chief executive officer of the pharmaceutical firm Grünenthal (the German manufacturer of thalidomide) and grandson of its founder, was the first member of his family prepared to meet people …

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