Before Grünenthal put Thalidomide on the West German market in 1957, they claimed they had done all the necessary tests. Medical laws or regulations to independently control or monitor the approval process of the new drug didn’t exit back then. West Germany was in fact the only country in the European Economic Community that didn’t have a national medical law.
Grünenthal recalled Thalidomide in 1961. However, the regulations for introducing new drugs didn’t really change until 1978. That year a new medical law became effective in West Germany, mandating strict approval procedures for new medications. Drug companies now needed to provide extensive and reliable evidence showing that their preparation was not only effective but also safe. On top of that, a new regulatory body was formed and equipped with the power to withdraw previously approved drugs.
During the Contergan (Thalidomide) trial Grünenthal agreed to pay 100 million D-Mark (about $30 million CDN), but only under the condition that no survivor would ever be allowed to sue the company again. The West German government matched the 100 million D-Mark. Starting in October 1972 survivors received small monthly pensions (between 100 DM and 450 DM/$30 CDN and $140 CDN at the time) and one single lump sum (between 2,500 DM and 25,000 DM/$770 CDN and $7,700 CDN at the time). By 1997 the money Grünenthal originally provided had completely run out. Ever since, just the German government has been paying for the monthly pensions.
In 2007, exactly 50 years after Thalidomide was put on the market, the German public broadcaster WDR aired the fictional movie “Eine Einzige Tablette” (“A Single Pill”). “A Single Pill” reached record ratings and helped to bring back the Thalidomide scandal into public awareness. In the following years, the German government significantly raised the monthly pensions. Grünenthal did not contribute to this increase, but paid 50 million Euros towards the German Contergan Foundation.