- In 1960 Distillers (now Diageo) started to sell Thalidomide in Australia and New Zealand under various trade names. The most popular one was “Distaval”. It was taken off the market in December 1961.
- Around 150 Thalidomide babies were born in Australia and New Zealand. Only about 40 of them received a small sum of compensation as children.
- In 2011 Lynette Rowe launched a lawsuit against Diageo and Grünenthal (who wanted the case to be heard in Germany). Lynette was born without arms and legs in Melbourne in 1962. The case was leading a class action suit on behalf of all the other survivors in Australia and New Zealand. Her lawyers Peter Gordon and Michael Magazanik amassed mountains of evidence to back Lynette’s claim. Their hard work paid off. In 2012 Diageo offered the Rowe family a multi-million dollar sum. Subsequently in 2013 another 100 survivors in Australia and New Zealand received a settlement in their class action. Diageo agreed to pay them 89 million Australian dollars.
- It was an obstetrician from Sydney who first informed Distillers about a possible connection between Thalidomide and malformations. In June 1961 William McBride called the drug company to warn them about three babies in his care born with deformities. It was around the time that Wendy Rowe was a few weeks pregnant with Lynette. McBride’s warnings were not followed up on by Distillers or Grünenthal.
Grünenthal did not contribute to the Australian settlement, which ended the case there – also meaning that the lawsuit against Grünenthal was dropped since the Rowes and their legal team would have to fight the case in Germany.